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Friday, April 14, 2006

Woodpeckers at Cornell

I visited Sapsucker Woods and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology yesterday for some meetings. Tree Swallows over the pond near the lab were a sign of spring, otherwise, mostly just resident birds--a few Canada Goose and Mallards, a Sharp-shinned Hawk soaring over the pond during one of my meetings, and a small handfull of songbirds.

My most interesting sighting was of a Pileated Woodpecker that flew over the road in front of the car as we approached the lab. While I've seen a fair number of Pileateds over the years, I don't see them all the time, and I've been paying closer attention to them since the possible Ivory-billed Woodpecker sightings and video came to light last year. Due to all the debate in identifying the Big Woods woodpecker on Luneau video, it was interesting to note the underwings of the bird that we saw yesterday. The underwing coverts were white, but the flight feathers were much more prominent and all black--looking almost twice as wide as the white. There wasn't really much white visible from below at the angle we were looking, from almost directly below. No matter what you think of the identity of the Luneau video, and I don't know how much variation there is in Pileateds, from the bird I saw yesterday, it would be easy to understand how researchers at Cornell might think that the Luneau video shows a bird with way more white in the wings than they are used to seeing on their resident Pileated Woodpeckers.

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