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Niblet Publishing

Occasional Observation #169

A great week for birds! Walking around Lac Leamy yesterday afternoon, I saw a pair of Tufted Titmice, in practically the same area of the path and at just about the same time of year as I saw a clump of them last year. This bird is evidently so uncommon in Canada that Earl Godfrey didn’t even include a range map for it in his compendious Encyclopedia of Canadian Birds.

Today, something even more remarkable. As I walked briskly down Jacques-Cartier early in the morning, having chosen this time slot in an attempt to avoid the forecast rain, I saw a Pileated Woodpecker. This sight on a residential street is uncommon enough, though I did see Pileateds on three separate occasions on Jacques-Cartier the winter before last. But the bird was not just any Pileated, and its location was strange to the point of being bizarre.

For the most part, Pileated Woodpeckers are extremely shy, preferring heavily wooded areas offering lots of decayed or decaying trees they can peck into with their mighty bills. But this Pileated, almost certainly a young male given his red crest but relatively small size, had a cheerful, almost extroverted way about him. And he was making like a Flicker, first perching on a stump, then flying down to the wet ground in search of worms. It was the first time in a lifetime of bird-watching that I’d seen a Pileated on the ground, or anywhere close to it. His cheerful behaviour–I could almost have sworn he seemed glad to see me–reminded me of the Pileated in the “Woody Woodpecker” cartoons. Did those cartoonists know something about the species we everyday bird-watchers don’t?

All in all, it seemed a salutary reminder that not all birds of the same species look and act the same. Perhaps this was simply a “teenager” bored with the solitary life of the deep woods, and hungry for the bright lights and companionship of the big city?

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