Adventures with Goofy
Special to The Union
My wife, Jeannie, and I drove up to our house in the forest one Saturday afternoon this April and saw a spectacular bird clinging to the trunk of a large pine. It was one of our resident Pileated Woodpeckers, but this was the best look we had ever had. We were quite excited and watched it awhile before it flew behind the house. When we went inside, we saw it fly from the Madrone that grows through our deck. Later we saw it hopping up our roof.
These large woodpeckers are about the size of a crow, fly like a crow, and have a mostly dark body like a crow, but the similarity ends there. They have a hairdo to rival any one might see at a punk rock concert – a bright red crest coming to a point at the back of the head. Its head and neck are decorated with a bold black and white pattern. The male sports a red mustache. The undersides of the wings are mostly white, and a white patch adorns the upper side.
The next morning it was back on the same tree and the roof again. Later that afternoon, it showed up on our Madrone. I grabbed my camera and pursued it around the house where it landed on the side of a Douglas Fir. I snuck out the side door and took some photos. “This is great!” I thought.
As the week progressed, we kept seeing him around the house. Midweek, Jeannie noticed that he had taken some chunks out of our log home. I soon discovered that he had also taken chunks out of our deck rail, the deck door, and the Madrone. This is not good; I know; I looked it up. These guys have one humongous jack-hammer of a beak and can do a lot of damage in a hurry.
We covered up the places he had been working on and hoped for the best. Thursday, when I came down for breakfast, there he was, looking through the back door window. I snapped a few photos of him hanging on the door and made a video of him doing a dance on the deck rail. On Saturday I got a lot of great close-up shots and a video of him taking chunks out of the railing (fortunately we had been planning to replace it this year anyway).
By now, of course, we were wondering, “What’s up with this goofy bird?” That’s when we named him “Goofy.” It finally dawned on us that he sees his reflection in our windows and thinks it is a rival. The same thing has been happening with bluebirds, juncos, and titmice seeing themselves in our car mirrors. That reminds me of an old joke. One Robin says to the other, “Have you seen the 2008 Lexus?” “Yeah, I left a deposit on one yesterday.” You should see our deck!
Apparently, part of the aggressiveness display of the Pileated Woodpecker involves pecking on whatever is handy. Unfortunately for us, it was our house and surrounding trees. All the trees around our house have 1Ð2″ pieces of bark chiseled out. The bobbing dance he does on our deck rail is probably another element of his territorial defense.
For a while we covered up our doors with blankets so he wouldn’t see reflections. Fortunately, as time moved along, his ardor waned, but every once in a while we would hear a thud on one of the windows. There he was, clinging to the screen, peering in. Actually, he is trying to find where that other woodpecker got off to. We hope he thinks he has won the battle and moves on to other endeavors, like raising his young.
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