Woodpeckers help control insect population

Know Your Islands

Woodpeckers are adapted to forage on ants and termites and to drill out nest holes in trees.

West Indian Woodpecker

The West Indian Woodpecker (Melanerpes superciliaris)

There are two resident species found only on Grand Cayman, the West Indian Woodpecker and the Northern Flicker; and one migrant occurs throughout the Cayman Islands, the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker.

Both the West Indian Woodpecker and the Northern Flicker eat many insects and termites which help keep the insect population in balance – so they are good to have around your house!

How many differences can you see between the West Indian Woodpecker and the Northern Flicker?

The following information was sourced from Birds of the Cayman Islands, written by Patricia Bradley and the accompanying photographs were taken by Frank Roulstone.

The West Indian Woodpecker (Melanerpes superciliaris)

The West Indian Woodpecker male has a brilliant crown and nape with a pale forehead. The female has a brilliant red nape and hindneck with a grey forehead and crown. Both adults have pinkish grey faces with the distinguishing feature of unmarked underparts.

These birds have a red patch on the lower abdomen which is often hard to see and the wings display fine bars of black and creamy white.

The range of this species is Grand Cayman, Cuba, and the Bahamas.

The West Indian Woodpecker breeds and forages in all woodland habitats. This bird drills for ants less than the Northern Flicker and also forages for fruits, tree frogs and insects, mainly beetles. It is fairly common breeding resident on Grand Cayman and nests in a cavity drilled in a dead tree from January to August with a clutch of four.

The Northern Flicker or ‘Black-heart’ (Colaptes auratus)

The Northern Flicker, known locally as ‘Black-heart’ breeds and forages in all habitats and feeds almost exclusively on ants, termites and larvae both in trees and on the ground. This bird nests in a tree cavity from January to August as well.

The range of this species is Grand Cayman, Cuba, North America, and Central America.

Both male and female adults have cinnamon buff forehead, face, throat and sides of the neck. The crown and nape are grey with a distinguishing scarlet triangle on the centre nape. The back and wings display grayish brown and black bars with a white rump, heavily patched with black. There is a large black patch on the upper breast whereas the lower breast and abdomen are a whitish cinnamon with black spots. When the Northern Flicker is in flight, you can see that the under wing and under tail coverts are a rich yellow.

There are some things you can do to make your yard bird-friendly including putting out birdbaths, bird feeders, and building bird houses.

You could also get involved with the Wildlife Rescue Unit and help care for injured birds and other wildlife. Please contact [email protected] or 949-0121.

Last week’s answer: The bird often associated with cattle in pasture is the Cattle Egret, also known as the gauldin.

Trivia question: Cayman has how many species of bats?

Look for the answer in next week’s feature!

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