A forest fire roars along a mountain slope once green with spruce and pines, ignited by a lightning strike late in a Northwest summer. Once the fire has run its course, acres of blackened trunks stand silently against the blue sky. But by next summer, woodpeckers have discovered the charred forest and the feast of insects it provides. The Black-backed Woodpecker - like this female - comes closest to being a burnt-forest specialist. It will even form loose nesting colonies in recent burns.
Woodpeckers and Forest Fires
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote!
[Strike of lightning]
Ignited by a lightning strike during a summer thunderstorm, a forest fire roars along a mountain slope. [Roar of a forest fire] Once the fire runs its course, acres of blackened spruce and pines stand silently against the blue sky.
But the silence doesn’t last, as evidenced by the drumming of this Black-backed Woodpecker. [Drumming of Black-backed Woodpecker] By the next summer, woodpeckers discover the charred forest and the feast it provides. Flakes of fire-blackened bark rain down, as woodpeckers sidle up the trunks, chipping away for the rewards beneath. [Tapping excavation of Black-backed Woodpecker]
Bark beetles quickly infested the burned trees, and the beetles’ larvae are now tasty prizes for the woodpeckers. A Black-backed Woodpecker nicks the bark, revealing a young insect. [Tapping excavation of Black-backed Woodpecker]
Many woodpeckers are drawn to this insect bonanza. But the Black-backed Woodpecker, an uncommon resident of northern forests across the continent, comes closest to being a burnt-forest specialist. [Black-backed Woodpecker calls]
With coal-black back and wings, the Black-backed Woodpecker appears ideally suited for life among the scorched trunks. It will even form loose nesting colonies in recent burns, for the few years of the insect bonanza.
[Black-backed Woodpecker drums]
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Audio of the Black-backed Woodpecker provided by The Macaulay Library at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Drumming  recorded by G.A. Keller; tapping excavation/foraging  by G.A. Keller; call  by K. Sewall.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org August 2014 / July 2022 Narrator: Michael Stein
ID# 081507BBWOKPLU BBWO-01b