Nature Notes

Vol. XI August - 1933 No. 6

A Nest of the Alaska Three-Toed Woodpecker Found at Narada Falls Alaska Three-Toed Woodpecker

In "Mammals and Birds of Mount Rainier National Park" (Taylor and Shaw), the Harris, Sierra, Gairdner, Alaska Three-toes, Northern, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Western Pileated, Lewis and Northwestern Flicker are reported as representatives of the woodpecker group native to this park.

A pair of Alaska Three-toed woodpeckers are nesting in a snag standing close beside the road near Narada Falls. Taylor and Shaw report this woodpecker as rare and local in the Canadian and Hudsonian zones, having observed these birds in the james Lake region on the north side of the park, and only in this region. They also report that it is not known whether this spedies breads in the park, or migrates in after the breeding season.

The male and female were first observed by the writer near Narada Falls on July 1. The nest is excavated from a dead snag, the opening being about thirty feet from the ground and somewhat square in shape although not as cornered as that made by the Pileated Woodpecker. The excavation extends downward about ten inches. As the birds were unafraid it was possible to approach, by meas of a ladder, to within five feet of the opening and make both still and motion pictures of the birds as they came to the opening to feed the young. Both parents bring food, and the male was seen to enter the nest and remove excreta on several occasions. At the first observation on July 1, only the male was feeding the young. He made five visits to the nest in a thirty minute period. Later observations showed both parents bringing food.

The male Alaska Three-toes Woodpecker is brighter of plumage than the female. He has a distinct yellow cap extending from the top of his head nearly to the base of the beak. He is distinctly "ladder backed" having a black back with light bars crossing laterally. The flanks are also barred with white and the under parts are white. Another noticeable characteristic is a short white band extending from the middle of the eye. Narrow bands of white show on the outer wing coverts. The wings and back of the head is mainly black, while the outer tail feathers are white.

The female is similar, but without the yellow on the head and is less noticeably ladder-backed. The sombre black is more prominently displayed by the female.

This species of woodpecker has not been noted previously by the naturalists on the southern slope of the mountain. It may be that the unusually deep snow with a corresponding lateness of season accounts for the presence of the nest in this locality at this date.

The order Pici, the woodpeckers, is well represented in Mt. Rainier National Park. These birds feed on insect larvae which they extract from the bark and wood of trees with their chisel-shaped beaks, or on sap which they draw from the holes bored in the same manner. The majority of them are beneficial to the forests. They may be recognized by their manner of clinging to the perpendicular sides of trees. They have either four toes or three toes two of which are directed forward and the remainder to the rear; all the toes terminate in well hoked claws. The tail serves as a prop, and is very stout ending in a stiff bristle.

Charles Landes, Ranger-naturalist.

NOTE: The National Geographic Magazine of April 193 contains an interesting article regarding the woodpeckers by T. Gilbert Pearson together with some excellent colored illustrations by Maj. Allan Brooks.

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