Taking the woodpeckers as a family, there are but few persons but who will readily admit that these birds are a very useful group. Feeding as many, in fact most of them, do, upon the larvæ of wood-boring insects, they can readily do much greater good for the actual number destroyed in comparison with others that feed upon the foliage of trees. Not unfrequently will a single borer kill an entire tree if left to itself, while hundreds of foliage-feeding caterpillars of the same size make but litttle effect upon the appearance, to say nothing of the health of it.
Separately, the different species of woodpeckers vary much in habits and the nature of. food taken, therefore it would be quite difficult to summarize as to the group with respect to their relation to agriculture. Several years ago the United States Department of Agriculture undertook the study of these birds from this standpoint, with the result, so far as made public, at least, of showing that all of the species and subspecies embraced in the study—nineteen—with but a single exception, possibly, are beneficial. The Downy Woodpecker seems to possess the fewest traits that might count against it, while the Yellow-bellied species has been found to do much harm at times in "sap-sucking." The Flicker and Red-headed Woodpecker both eat fruit and more or less grain, and most of the other species at times eat various proportions of different wild seeds and berries.
Mr. F. E. L. Beal, assistant in the Division of Ornithology and Mammology of the United States Department of Agriculture, in summing up the results obtained from the examination of 679 stomachs of these birds, writes as follows :1
"In reviewing the results of these investigations and comparing one species with another, without losing sight of the fact that comparative good is not necessarily positive good, it appears that of seven species considered the Downy Woodpecker is the most beneficial." He then goes on to give the food habits based on contents of the stomachs of our most common species. "Judged by the results of the stomach examinations of the Downy and Hairy Woodpecker and Flicker it would be hard to find three other species of our common birds with fewer harmful qualities."
392. Campephilus principalis (Linn.).—IVORY-BILLED WOODPECKER.
Reported as rare in vicinity of Peru (G. A. Coleman).
393. Dryobates villosus (Linn.).—HAIRY WOODPECKER.
West Point, Omaha, Lincoln, etc., breeding at West Point (L. Bruner); "Resident, common" (Taylor); "Atlantic coast to near the base of the Rocky mountains" (Goss); Beatrice, De Witt (A. S. Pearse); Omaha—breeding (L. Skow); Peru—breeds (G. A. Coleman); Cherry county—breeds (?) (J. M. Bates); Gage county (F. A. Colby); "a not uncommon resident--breeds (I. S. Trostler).
393a. Dryobates villosus leucomelas (Bodd.).—NORTHERN HAIRY WOODPECKER.
Omaha (L. Skow); Omaha, "a rather rare winter visitor" (I. S. Trostler).
393c. Dryobates villosus harrisii (Aud.).----HARRIS’S WOOD— PECKER.
West Point (L. Bruner); "Abundant in the woody portions" (Aughey); "Given by Baird as taken in Nebraska" (Taylor); Sioux county, Dec., 1895 (L. Bruner, D. A. Haggard); northeastern Nebraska, common, breeds (Dr. Agersborg); Sioux county, Feb. 20, 25, 1896 (W. D. Hunter, L. Skow).
394. Dryobates pubescens (Linn.).—DOWNY WOODPECKER.
West Point, Dakota City, Blair, Omaha, Lincoln, etc.—breeds (L. Bruner); "frequently seen among the timber of river bottoms" (Aughey); "Common during spring, summer, and fall, probably a constant resident" (Taylor); "Northern North America" (Goss); Beatrice, De Witt—breeding (A. S. Pearse); Omaha—breeding (L. Skow); Peru, breeds —not common (G. A. Coleman); Gage county (F. A. Colby); "a common resident in vicinity of Omaha" (I. S. Trostler).
394a. Dryobates pubescens gairdnerii (Aud.).—GAIRDNER'S WOODPECKER.
Omaha (L. Skow); Sioux county, Feb. 19, 1396 (L. Bruner).
400. Picoides arcticus (Swains.).—ARCTIC THREE-TOED WOODPECKER.
Omaha (F. J. Brezee); Dakota City (Wallace Bruner); Omaha, "a rare winter visitant, one taken Dec. 15, 1895" (I. S. Trostler).
402. Sphyrapicus varius (Linn.).--YELLOW-BELLIED WOODPECKER; YELLOW-BELLIED SAP-SUCKER.
West Point, Omaha (L Bruner); "Rather common * * in eastern Nebraska" (Aughey); "Common during spring, summer, and fall" (Taylor); "North and east of the Rocky mountain slope" (Goss); Omaha—breeding (L. Skow); Peru, rare—probably breeds (G. A. Coleman); Omaha, "not rare as a summer resident—breeds late in May" (I. S. Trostler).
405. Ceophlæus pileatus (Linn.).—PILEATED WOODPECKER.
Rockport, Tekamah (L. Bruner); "In the heavily wooded districts of North America at large" (Goss); Rockport (L. Skow); "Probably only a winter visitor in the heavy timber along the Missouri river" (Dr. Agersborg); Omaha, "a very rare straggler, one seen May 20, 1895" (I. S. Trostler).
406. Melanerpes erythrocephalus (Linn.). — RED-HEADED WOODPECKER.
Omaha, West Point, Lincoln, Sioux county, etc.—breeds (L. Bruner); "wherever there is timber enough" (Aughey), "Common during spring, summer, and fall" (Taylor); "Westward to within the Rocky mountains" (Goss); Beatrice, De Witt—nesting (A. S. Pearse); Omaha—breeding (L. Skow); Peru, common—breeds (G. A. Coleman); Cherry county—breeds (J. M. Bates); Gage county—breeds (F. A. Colby); "common resident, returning southward in very cold weather" (I. S. Trostler).
1see Bull. No. 7, Div. Ornith. & Mamolog., p. 9.
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© 2001, Lynn Waterman