Woodpecker Wonderland

Sarah and I just returned from a long Independence Day weekend in central Oregon, land of horses, forests, and volcanic peaks.

It is also the land of woodpeckers and we planned to scour the forests and wildfire sites to find five woodpecker species that we had not yet seen in 2013. We succeeded thanks to a little help from our friends.

Our first stop was Summit Lake near Mount Hood, where a, American Three-toed Woodpecker nest had been reported.

We followed the begging calls of woodpecker nestlings to a nest tree and soon spotted a three-toed parent. We'd had no luck finding this aloof species in previous years, so the trip was off to a great start.

Next, we focused out efforts on another tricky species. Despite searching many areas in Oregon and Washington, it had been five years since we'd seen a Williamson's Sapsucker. Following a tip from Jen, we searched Cold Springs Campground until we found an adult male feeding ants to young that had recently left their nest.

The family was on the move and this was as close as we could get.We found at least four more individuals over the next four days. It is apparently a good year for Williamsons.

We were able to get much closer to a pair of Red-naped Sapsuckers who were still tending their nest. Once again, we followed Jen's directions, this time at Calliope Crossing. In no time, we heard squawking and watched a parent arrive with a bill full of ants. The parents were much less wary than the previous day's three-toeds.We also found the site's resident Northern Pygmy Owl, but it flew off before we could get a good look or a picture.

Some friends graciously shared their house with us during the weekend. It turned out we were not the only house guests. When we first arrived at the house, we were scolded by a pair of White-headed Woodpeckers. A day later we found that they had excavated a cavity in the house's siding and it contained at least one nearly full-grown nestling who watched us quietly while its parents freaked. 

On day three, with four woodpeckers down and one to go, we searched the Pole Creek wildfire site for the burn-loving Black-backed Woodpecker.

We tried several locations in the burn with no success. As we were about to return to Sisters for coffee and shade, we heard the chirping call of an adult female. Like the Williamson's Sapsuckers, she was on the move collecting food for a hungry fledgling.

On our way out of the site, the black-backed dropped us a gift, and not the gross kind.

It's a piece of bark chipped off the trunk of a ponderosa pine in her search for delicious beetle larva. The prefect memento for a successful woodpecker quest!


  1. Love the shot of the White-headed Woodpecker. What a fun trip!

  2. What a cool idea to save the bark! Congrats on all your woodpecker hunting successes, glad my directions were able to help. That white-headed is adorable but oooh that's probably kind of a bummer that they're in the siding...

  3. The good news is that the white-headed nestlings left the nest later that day. The bad news (for some) is that a bat or rodent will probably move in if the cavity is not sealed off.

  4. This is a most excellent bird nerd post. I am quite envious of you wonderland experiences. Keep it up!


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