Monday, October 18, 2010

Reminded of Woody the Woodpecker

One day, many years ago, I walked through some woods and heard, to my great surprise, the call of a cartoon character from my childhood, Woody Woodpecker. I followed the ear-shattering sound and beheld two enormous birds flying from tree to tree and calling loudly to one another. At home I found it was easy to identify them as Pileated woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus), which are described at All About Birds as being nearly as large as a crow. They seem bigger to me but I've never had the opportunity to compare the two species side by side or to measure. There seems to be some question as to whether Woody, the cartoon woodpecker, was modeled after Pileated or Acorn woodpeckers. Julie Zickefoose, an naturalist and artist discusses this further at NPR.

More recently I came upon a male Pileated excavating in a small oak along a busy trail at Howarth Park. He worked silently and diligently, hacking away at a small black oak tree. I pulled off to the side of the trail and sketched for about 20 minutes before he took off. Soon after, I packed up and walked on toward some California ground squirrels and excitement for my canine companion.

More about the actual woodpecker:
National Geographic
Wild Bird WatchingPileated Woodpecker Central
All About Birds

...and the animated woodpecker:
Don Markenstein's Toonopedia
Universal Studios


  1. 'Excavating' really is the word for it when those big guys get going! I thought it was funny that your dog would consider him less interesting than a ground squirrel -- but she probably thinks she's going to catch one of the squirrels any day now.

  2. I always consider it a treat when I see a pileated woodpecker. Your Howarth Park must be a nice place to be harboring one.

  3. I know they are around in the countryside here but I haven't had the luck to see, let alone sketch one.

    Lovely nature spread, Debbie, I always enjoy reading your incidental notes.