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Drilling for your dinner might give you a headache, but it’s the way of the woodpeckers.  Two types of birds in this family that are especially helpful at keeping the insect population down are the Northern Flickers and the Hairy Woodpeckers. 

Flickers are frequently seen digging into the lawn with their beaks.  They’re a tawny brown with black bars and spots, and sport a bright red bar on the back of their necks.  Their nests are made in hollowed out tree trunks usually found in old growth forests.  Ants are their favorite food and they’re equipped with especially long, raspy tongues ideal for capturing them.

Hairy Woodpeckers are usually seen clinging to tree trunks.  They’re black and white and are slightly larger than the similar Downy Woodpeckers also found in Nova Scotia, with a longer beak and the absence of a black bar on their white tail feathers.  Males of both species have a red dot on the back of their heads.  They excavate their nests in live trees.  They will drill for insects year round, dining on the larvae found under the bark of trees during the winter months.  Feathers over woodpeckers’ nostrils prevent them from inhaling the wood that’s flicked off during the drilling process.

hairy woodpecker

If these woodpeckers didn’t visit my yard, there’d probably be a lot more ants and other insects around.  The sound of their persistent drilling and drumming is most welcome.

Even the woodpecker owes his success to the fact that he uses his head and keeps pecking away until he finishes the job he starts.

~ Coleman Cox

For more information on Northern Flickers, see The Flying Anteater.

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