HomePublicationsThe Tracker MagazineVol 1, No. 1, Nov 1981

The Tracker Magazine - Vol 1 No. 1, Nov 1981

Woodpecker Interview
Brandt Morgan

    As I was rambling along the trail, I heard what sounded like somebody kicking a dead tree. Now, there's only one thing that makes sounds like that, unless it's a hiker gone berserk or a survival school graduate building a leaf hut, and that's a pileated woodpecker. I spotted it only 50 feet away, rapping on a dead snag only six feet above the ground! I figured if I could get close enough, that bird and I might manage to have a conversation of sorts. I started stalking, using the tress, trying to be one of them. When I couldn't see the woodpecker I could see its shadow on the forest floor, so I knew when it was watching or moving. I finally made it to a tree about ten feet in front of the woodpecker where I could peer out without being seen. Here was a giant of a woodpecker dressed in dazzling colors! I could easily see how the bird gripped the tree, braced itself with its tail, and hauled back its bill before each jarring whack at the tree. Its whole body would rear back like a horse and ram itself forward. The tree vibrated, the forest echoed, and chips of rotted wood flew all over. Before long, the woodpecker disappeared around the other side of the tree, so I snuck up to the snag and put my ear to it. It sounded like somebody hacking away with an axe on the other side of the tree! During the quiet moments when he let up on his side of the tree, I started tapping on my side. Nothing happened the first time. The second time there was a long pause after my series of taps. I could almost see him cocking his head and thinking, "Wait a minute, what's going on here?" The third time through this routine the old character finally came hopping around the tree to investigate. I'll never forget the look on his face when he saw me standing there. He was so surprised he couldn't even fly away. For several seconds he just stared at me with one big yellow eye blazing from his fiery head. Then, to my delight, he started pecking at the tree right in front of me! After a few more seconds, he looked at me again, muttered an agitated series of calls, and flew off. I have rarely felt so grateful for anything as I did for that woodpecker interview.


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