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Black-backed Woodpecker Sighted in Algonquin Provincial Park

By Frame To Frame - Bob And Jean @frametoframebJ

A Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) takes time out to sit on the side of a tree in Algonquin Provincial Park

Our visit to Oxtongue Lake this past weekend was really fruitful in terms of bird sightings.  On one of our daily excursions, Bob and I drove into Algonquin Provincial Park where we got to see a Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) when hiking along the Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail.

A photo of the Spruce Bog in Algonquin Provincial Park under March snow.

Late Saturday afternoon, beneath a heavy, overcast sky, Bob and I set out on the short 1.5 kilometer loop that guides visitors through two typical northern spruce bogs.

Picture of the Spruce Bog boardwalk sign in Algonquin Provincial Park - Ontario

Bob takes time to film wildlife in the Spruce bog in Algonquin Provincial Park - Ontario

A brisk north wind buffeted us as we crossed one of the many boardwalk sections of the trail.  There was no protection from the elements on that exposed expanse of the bog,

Spruce Bog boardwalk - Algonquin Park - Ontario

whereas,  the thick stands of spruce trees provided a great windbreak once we left the open area of the bog behind.

A Hairy Woodpecker pecks away at suet feeder on the Spruce Bog boardwalk in Algonquin Park - Ontario

A short distance from the parking lot, the park’s staff have erected a bird feeder which is highly popular with various species of birds.  When Bob and I first approached the feeding station, a female Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) was already engaged in pecking bits of suet from within the wire cage.

Spruce Bog boardwalk under snow in Algonquin Park - Ontario

Seeing no other birds of note at that time, we continued along the trail in search of the Black-backed Woodpecker that had been reported at that location in recent days.  The trail conditions were excellent…hard-packed from repeated use.

A Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) sits high up on the side of a tree in Algonquin Provincial Park - Ontario

It was Bob who first spotted the bird on the side of a tree trunk.   Black-backed Woodpeckers prefer coniferous woodlands and burned areas with standing dead trees.  I suppose that is why this particular bird is wintering on the fringes of a spruce bog.

A Black-backed Woodpecker in Algonquin Provincial Park

Black-backed Woodpeckers are often detected by their foraging taps, bark prying, and drumming.

In this video that Bob filmed, you get a great chance to both see and also hear the woodpecker drumming away on the tree.

A Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) in Algonquin Provincial Park - Ontario

Black-backed Woodpeckers are comparable in size to the Hairy Woodpecker, between 9-10 inches in length.

A Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) holds on tight to a tree in Algonquin Provincial Park - Ontario

This female exhibits the heavily black and white barred flanks of the species, as well as the broad white stripe below the eye.  A male Black-Backed Woodpecker would have a yellow crown.

A Black-backed Woodpecker digs away at a tree in Algonquin Provincial Park - Ontario

Its unmistakeable solid black back distinguishes this woodpecker from the Northern Three-toed Woodpecker.  In some light, the black back can take on a bluish tinge.

View of a Black-backed Woodpeckers tail and back feathers.

This angle reveals the white belly of the woodpecker.

A Black-backed Woodpecker checks out a tree in Algonquin Provincial Park

Three instead of four toes distinguishes the Black-backed Woodpecker from other woodpeckers except the aptly named Northern Three-toed Woodpecker.

A Black-backed Woodpecker sticks its head inside a tree, on the hunt for something to eat, Algonquin Provincial Park

Black-backed Woodpeckers are known for following outbreaks of wood-boring beetles.  I wonder if that is what this female is  delving for deep in the wood of this tree trunk.  This picture shows clearly the white throat, chest and belly, and also how the woodpecker braces itself against the tree using its two tail feathers.

Spruce Bog boardwalk covered with snow in late winter in Algonquin Provincial Park - Ontario

After spending about 45 minutes taking pictures of the woodpecker and its whereabouts, Bob and I continued along the trail wondering what other surprises would be in store for us.

Jean prepares to take a picture on the Spruce Bog boardwalk in Algonquin Provincial Park

Lots of evidence was visible where other animals had been moving about the forest and the bog, including rabbit and fox tracks.  We had no luck, however, spotting the pine marten that lives there.

A Black-backed Woodpecker pecks at tree in Algonquin Provincial Park

Black-backed Woodpeckers are alternately referred to as Arctic Three-toed Woodpeckers.  They are particularly scarce in conifer forests so we were very lucky to see this unique bird.

Checkout some of our other woodpecker sightings:

A closeup of the red head of a Pileated Woodpecker near Oxtongue Lake

Pileated Woodpeckers sighted near Oxtongue Lake

Red-bellied Woodpecker - takes a break after eats snow - Lynde Shores - Whitby - Ontario

Red-Bellied Woodpecker Sighting – Whitby – Ontario

2 Pileated Woodpeckers in Algonquin Park - January 26 2013

Two Pileated Woodpeckers Sighted Together in Algonquin Park

Male Hairy Woodpecker, prepares to checkout a hole in tree

Hairy & Downy Woodpeckers & Northern Flickers at Oxtongue Lake

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