Cedar Mill
Community Website

Cedar Mill News
Volume 5, Issue 3


March 2007
Pileated Woodpeckers can be observed in Jordan Park

The Nature of Cedar Mill
Woodpeckers of the Tualatin Valley
Kyle Spinks, Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District

Probably one of the first bird sounds many of us were able to identify as children was the knocking of a woodpecker in a nearby forest. We learned that they were opening up the trunks of trees or snags looking for insects, or hollowing out a cavity in preparation for nesting season. It is a sound that still brings a smile to our faces when we catch it off in the distance, especially when it’s an unexpected reminder of the wildlife nearby our homes and workplaces.

Many birds use their beaks as pounding tools, but woodpeckers are probably the most well known for this talent. They drill holes in trees in search for food, or to cause sap to run, which will either be eaten or will attract insects that they eat. All our male woodpeckers “drum” when they are advertising for females during breeding season and when declaring their territory to other woodpeckers. They will search out those surfaces that produce the most resonant sounds, which include snags and living trees, utility poles, rain gutters and flashing, or even on the very siding on our homes!

Downy Woodpeckers occasionally supplement their diet of bugs and berries with tidbits from feeders

Here in the Tualatin Valley we are lucky to have six regular visitors to our forests and woodlands: Acorn Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, and the Pileated Woodpecker.

The Acorn Woodpecker is a habitat specialist, typically occupying oak woodlands and forests. This strikingly colored bird is a bit smaller than a robin, averaging 9-11” bill tip to tail tip. It has an all-white rump, a white forehead and throat patch, and bright red cap. It is well known for its habit of stashing acorns in the bark of trees.

The Downy and the Hairy Woodpeckers are very similar in appearance, with size being the most obvious difference. The Downy Woodpecker averages about 7” long and the Hairy Woodpecker averages about 9”. Both live in our local forests, though the Hairy Woodpecker is more commonly seen in mature forests, while the Downy can be seen foraging in shrublands and even visiting suburban feeders. A quick way to remind yourself which you might be observing is to think, “Hairy is huge, Downy is diminutive.” They eat a wide variety of insects, but will also graze on the berries from such native plants as serviceberry and poison-oak.

The Red-breasted Sapsucker is well known for drilling horizontal rows of holes in the trunks of living trees, then returning to drink the sap, and to eat the insects that show up for the sap. They are the size of a small robin and can be easily identified by their all-red heads. They can be found in conifer or mixed conifer-hardwood forests and usually migrate to lower elevations in the Tualatin Valley during winter.

The Northern Flicker is probably one of the most commonly seen woodpeckers of the area. They are the second largest of our woodpeckers, averaging about 12” long. Two varieties occur in Oregon, but the
Red-shafted Flicker is the common variety in the Tualatin Valley; the Yellow-shafted Flicker is common to the east and north in Oregon. Flickers have a distinct white rump patch that flashes as they fly (thus, the name) and a black chest patch, and the males in our variety have a red mustache that extends across the cheek. Flickers can be found foraging for insects on the ground, but they also will eat a wide variety of nuts and berries.

Our largest woodpecker, the Pileated Woodpecker (pronounced PILL-ee-ay-ted) has recently been in the news as the bird that may be confused with the endangered Ivory-billed Woodpecker of the southeast United States. The Pileated Woodpecker is easily identified by its red, pointed crest (‘pileated’ is from the Latin word for cap). Their long necks and large heads give them a distinctive “prehistoric” look. Pileated Woodpeckers prefer mature woodlands where large, rectangular holes are drilled in snags when they search for their favorite food: carpenter ants. They are regularly observed in Jordan Park.



Sign Up Now to receive
The Cedar Mill News by email each month

Cedar Mill News Subject Index
for past articles

Published monthly by Cedar Mill Advertising & Design
Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
12110 NW West Rd
Portland, OR 97229