BIRD OF THE WEEK — BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER — PLANET EARTH BIRD WORLD group

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BIRD OF THE WEEK

Black-backed Woodpecker

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Picoides arcticus
POPULATION: 1.8 million
TREND: Increasing
HABITAT: Resident in highland and boreal forests.

A burned-over forest may look lifeless and dreary to the human eye, but to the Black-backed Woodpecker, it’s a veritable welcome mat. This glossy-backed bird blends in beautifully with the charred trees it prefers; in fact, it’s far less likely to be seen away from a burned area than in one. This species is one of the first to recolonize a forest after a major fire, along with other species such as the White-headed and Hairy Woodpeckers.

The Black-backed Woodpecker’s seemingly odd choice of habitat makes a lot of sense when you think about the bird’s diet. A post-fire forest of charred conifers attracts wood-boring beetles and their larvae, as well as other insects, providing a ready woodpecker buffet. These dead trees (also known as snags) are also perfect places to excavate cavities for nesting and roosting.

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