I watched the pileated woodpeckers feeding their young yesterday morning. The sun was just peeking over the horizon, and I was still rustling around in dry leaves trying to find a good spot to settle, when the female showed up.
The youngsters made an incredible racket declaring their ravenous appetites, sounding like a combination of rasping hinge and buzzing insect. When she left, they continued calling for food.
The male came next, regurgitating directly into their beaks with his own formidable tweezers. (He came quickly, before I had time to move so that twig wasn’t in the way…)
How does he dare thrust in, open-eyed, among those stabbing beaks?
Unlike the female, when he finished the feeding he pushed the young back inside.
Normal clutch size is four eggs, but I’ve seen only these two young woodpeckers. Maybe there were only two successful eggs. Or maybe a predator has gotten the other two — a snake or an owl, either of which could reach into the cavity. It’s not a possibility I like to think about.
What an amazing experience to get to see the feeding! A year ago I never would have dreamed of it — I would have heard the occasional pileated call and felt a thrill, but the idea of seeing this kind of activity close in wouldn’t even have occurred to me.
The only disappointment is the graininess of my pictures in the low-light conditions. Maybe I will get another try some sunny blue day, when the sun is higher in the sky. But it’s hard to imagine two such opportunities… and the time is getting short. These young’uns seem like they must be close to fledging.