Readers’ wildlife videos

Tara Tanaka (vimeo site here and flickr site here) has re-edited and improved these wonderful videos of a Pileated Woodpecker making a nest, and of Pileated chicks growing up. A while back I posted an earlier version of the first video, but there are new readers and these are well worth seeing again. Here are her notes. Be sure to watch the videos on large screed and hi-def:

Last September I walked by the dining room window and saw a Pileated Woodpecker [Dryocopus pileatus] in a dead snag, about 75’ from the house. The tree was diseased and in danger of hitting the house, so a couple of years ago we had it topped, but left it standing – just for the woodpeckers. I cracked the window and slipped the scope out the window, and videoed him creating what appeared to be a new cavity, but he ended up making just a shallow depression.

Six months passed, and I saw him only occasionally. In March I looked out and he was back working very seriously on his well-aged starter cavity. He worked for a couple of days, excavating an enormous amount of wood. During the time he was still excavating the cavity, I looked out one morning to see him at the cavity, but his crest was up and he clearly didn’t want to go in. He hopped around the tree, came back, looked in, raised his crest, and left. Later in the day we say him working on the cavity again. We thought there might have been a rat snake in the cavity, so that afternoon, after he’d “knocked off” for the day, we went out and were about to wrap the base of the tree with some nylon mesh we use to protect nests from snakes, and saw that there was a fresh, broken egg on the ground at the base of the tree. Apparently a Wood Duck was in the cavity laying an egg, even before the Woodpecker had finished it. The most important tree in the woods is a snag, and the most important bird is the woodpecker.

I hope you enjoy this, it was a lot of fun to film and edit.

And. . . the babies! These are from the year after the cavity was made above:

I went out every morning for two weeks and shot video of these two little boys, from before any of the red in their malar stripes was visible. The day before I shot this video I got to watch the larger of the two say his first “big-boy” Pileated words, and this was my favorite moment of the two weeks — watching the smaller one call his first real call, after hearing and then intently studying his larger brother’s call. I managed to record each of them leaving the cavity the next morning, and the smaller one left about 45 minutes before the larger one! I later realized that they had to be able to communicate with the parents before they fledged, and they timed it perfectly.

The parents had nested in another dead tree the year before, and right around the time that the eggs were due to hatch, the tree broke off half-way up, ironically right at the spot where he had built his cavity the year before, when he didn’t have a mate. This year they built their cavity about 50’ high in a slash pine that my husband had girdled (cut the bark off all the way around) at least 3-4 years ago, just so that it would die and could be used by woodpeckers. When I would review the video that I’d shot on windy mornings I could see the tree moving, and held my breath with every gust for weeks, but this year their tree stood strong while they used the cavity. I saw them for a couple of days after they fledged, but the parents have taken them somewhere else, hopefully just for now. I hope they come back and make their nests in our yard in years to come. A hen Wood Duck would come every morning and look in the cavity to see if it was empty yet, and I think she has been laying eggs in it since they left. Those babies are going to have quite a jump when they hatch!

Tara added this in an email:

Interestingly, the smaller one who followed his larger brother’s lead in “speaking” his first words was the first to fly, leaving his brother alone for about 45 minutes before he got up the courage to step out in the air.  They both had beautiful first flights.  It’s very special getting to know individual birds and follow them from year to year.


  1. Stephen Barnard
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 8:27 am | Permalink


  2. Colleen Milloy
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Wow, what an absolute joy to watch Tara’s videos. I have many small woodpeckers at my bird feeders but the rare glimpses I get of pileated woodpeckers are so special. Thanks for sharing these beautiful videos Tara.

    • Posted October 22, 2017 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Colleen! It’s MUCH more fun filming and editing them knowing that I will get to share them with others who appreciate nature!

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Yes, for most of us who never get to see this bird, really great video.

  4. rickflick
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Tara, you do such fine filming. Seeing your work has inspired me to move into digiscoping which is a great way to cover great distances with a camera. Currently I’m practicing with my Vortex Razor scope. I hope to be able to get some good clips to offer the Reader’s Wildlife videos.

    • Posted October 22, 2017 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Rick! I hope you’re having fun digiscoping.

  5. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Absolutely wonderful. It must be a joy to edit these prized gems and explore the memories.

    • Posted October 22, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Mark! The first one was especially fun to edit.

  6. claudia baker
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 9:44 am | Permalink


  7. busterggi
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Been trying to see one of these for years, you’re very fortunate.

  8. FB
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 11:59 am | Permalink


  9. Posted October 22, 2017 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Tara, you made my day! The babies’ calls are simply sublime.

    • Posted October 22, 2017 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks very much for letting me know.

  10. ploubere
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing these with us, Tara, very cool!

  11. cruzrad
    Posted October 23, 2017 at 11:38 pm | Permalink


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