Quail Ridge hosts six resident and two wintering
species of woodpeckers. Most are characterized by bold dark and
white patterns and red head or facial markings (more often on the
male). The first indication of their presence is usually the loud,
species-specific calls and tapping. Zygodactylous (two toes pointed
forward and two behind) feet and stiff tail feathers facilitate
climbing of tree trunks. All species use a strong, chisel-like bill
to drum mating calls or territory delineations and to bore holes
in trees for forage or nest cavities. Eggs are laid on the bare
or chip-lined floor of the cavity, and both parents care for their
young. The woodpecker diet consists predominantly of wood-associated
insects found within tree canopies or caught aerially. Notable exceptions
includes the Sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus sp.), which specialize
on tree sap and the ants that it attracts, and the Acorn Woodpecker
(Melanerpes formicivorus), which not surprisingly consumes
acorns as a significant portion of its diet.
to their coexistence at Quail Ridge, each woodpecker species exhibits
distinguishing patterns of behavior and habitat use. While most
woodpeckers are solitary and monogamous, the highly social Acorn
Woodpecker lives communally and participates in cooperative breeding
and resource defense. Members of the colony store acorns and other
food items in oak woodland “granaries” – trunks
or telephone poles bored with holes – that they mutually defend.
Although difficult for kleptoparasites to access, many of these
nuts are supplementary resources for other species during winter.
Another dietary specialist, the Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus
ruber), provides rows of open sap wells and insects for other
species; rows of sapsucker holes can be found in several trees on
the bottom of Decker Canyon. A general forest inhabitant, the Northern
Flicker (Colaptes auratus), is ubiquitous throughout California
and the western U.S. The flicker frequents open ground for foraging
and will nest in snags or any suitable cavities. Nuttall’s
Woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii) is another common and endemic
resident of California. It is the most prevalent woodpecker at Quail
Ridge (density measured at nearly 2 birds/ha) and prefers nesting
in dead riparian deciduous trees and foraging in oaks. Nuttall’s
occasionally hybridizes with the Downy Woodpecker.
Sharing a similar range and physical appearance
with the Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus), the Downy
Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) frequents riparian and
deciduous woodland as well as nearby grassy areas. While the Hairy
forages on lower trunks of mature trees, the smaller Downy forages
more peripherally on small tree limbs or weed stalks. Thus the Hairy
more often resides in mature woods. Both species are uncommon on
Of special mention are the two resident pairs of
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) at Quail Ridge.
Although common to deciduous and mixed-coniferous forests of the
eastern United States, the species has declined in the west with
the loss of old-growth trees in which they nest. Sizeable nesting
cavities and ample forest tracts are necessary to accommodate this
large woodpecker. At Quail Ridge, these birds nest in either mature
black oak or gray pine, maintaining year-round pair bonds and territories.
This population is among the southernmost found breeding in the
state in the Coast range.
Species and Guild Accounts
Listen and identify birds at: http://identify.whatbird.com/mwg/_/0/attrs.aspx
Photo Credits: Title, California Quail
(Joyce Gross), Acorn Woodpecker (Tom Greer), Red-breasted Sapsucker
(Kim Cabrera), Pileated Woodpecker (Don Getty; http://www.dongettyphoto.com/).
For more pictures see: http://elib.cs.berkeley.edu/photos/fauna/