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The Pileated Woodpecker Is a Keystone Species and Defending Its Nest Cavities Is Good for Nature

The Pileated Woodpecker is a kind of species which can be so cherished by beginner birders—you may’t confuse it with anything! The biggest woodpecker in Canada, it sports activities a shiny crimson crest and a heavy black physique with white stripes. Its loud resonant drumming that will increase in tempo, is unmistakable.

And it’s greater than only a placing presence. The Pileated Woodpecker is what ecologists name a keystone species—which is why its current inclusion in schedule 1 of the amended Migratory Chicken Conference Act Rules is so essential.

A keystone species is outlined as “an organism that has a big affect on the ecosystem it occupies that’s disproportionately massive in comparison with its abundance or biomass”1,2. Famend ecologist Daniel Simberloff demonstrated that keystone species “are functionally linked to a set of different species; thus, administration for the persistence of keystone species advantages different species by sustaining key ecosystem features or constructions.”2

Simply what’s a keystone species? It’s been outlined as “a comparatively unusual species that’s functionally linked to the [perseverance] of an array of different species and performs a important position within the group and/or functioning of the ecosystem.”3

Credit score: Larry Kirtley

For the Pileated Woodpecker, that position lies within the holes that they drill. A easy motion that has a number of advantages for the ecosystem—together with supporting nutrient biking, managing insect populations, and manufacturing new niches for different species to occupy. They create alternatives for foraging, sheltering, and nesting. For instance, cavities that aren’t used for their very own nesting are used for years thereafter by an array of various species. On this sense, the Pileated Woodpecker is engineering the ecosystem, a job that simply helps over 30 species.

Probably the most noteworthy adjustments to the amended Rules of the Migratory Birds Conference Act is the inclusion of the Pileated Woodpecker on the checklist of species for which nesting websites are protected after energetic nesting. On behalf of the 30-plus species of wildlife that rely on Pileated Woodpeckers throughout their life histories, thanks for making this essential change to the Rules Minister Guilbeault.

Sadly, a current article within the Nationwide Submit by Bryan Passifiume fully misses the purpose of why the Pileated Woodpecker is protected beneath the brand new rules. As a substitute, it as an alternative perpetuates a false narrative that the chook’s inclusion is in some way misguided. We beg to vary.

Passifiume admits in his article that full-time enterprise lobbyists (representing seven main enterprise teams, together with the Forest Merchandise Affiliation of Canada and the Canadian Affiliation of Petroleum Producers, have been pressuring the Federal Authorities to weaken a key biodiversity clause within the amended rules of the Migratory Chicken Conference Act. Passifiume describes what quantities to a considerate and progressive requirement of the rules as an “onerous burden” to those enterprise oligarchs.

What having Pileated Woodpecker on the checklist of species for enhanced nest web site safety does, is drive the individuals chopping down timber to do their work fastidiously relatively than recklessly. Is {that a} dangerous factor?

Male Pileated Woodpecker on Dayton Highway Blind River, Ontario. Credit score: Larry Kirtley

Over thirty species rely on the Pileated Woodpecker for his or her survival. Right here is the checklist of 27 species from solely two research3,4 in Northwestern North America:

  • Wooden Duck
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Widespread Merganser
  • Barrow’s Goldeneye (Particular Concern)
  • Widespread Goldeneye
  • Bufflehead
  • American Kestrel
  • Flammulated Owl
  • Western Screech Owl
  • Northern Pygmy Owl
  • Northern Noticed-whet Owl
  • Boreal Owl
  • Vaux’s Swift
  • Furry Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Furry Woodpecker
  • Brown Creeper
  • Northern flying squirrel
  • Pink squirrel
  • Douglas’ Squirrel
  • Bushy-tailed Woodrat
  • American Marten
  • Ringtail
  • Fisher
  • Little brown Myostis (Endangered)
  • Massive brown Myotis
  • Silver-haired Bat

Many of those species use outdated Pileated Woodpecker nest websites to breed: a safe and secure place to have their infants and nurture them via essentially the most weak a part of their lives.

Modernizing the Rules of the Migratory Chicken Conference Act is lengthy overdue and enormously welcomed by anybody involved about chook populations. However the amendments introduced on June 9 can’t be the tip of it. The Rules want a allowing scheme, partially to make them workable, and to make these whose actions have an effect on migratory chook populations accountable for his or her actions.

North America has misplaced about one-third of its wild chook populations over the past 50 years, largely due to human actions that take nature without any consideration. It’s time we have a good time the progressive change to insurance policies and rules that can assist our chook populations and the remainder of nature recuperate.

  • 1 Energy, M.E. Tilman, D., Estes, J.A., Menge, B.A., Bond, W.J., Mills, L.S., Every day, G., Castilla, J.C. Lubchenco, J., & Paine, R.T.. (1996) Challenges within the quest for keystones. BioScience. 46(8), 609-620.
  • 2 Simberloff, D.. (1998) Flagships, umbrellas, and keystones: is single-species administration passe within the panorama period? Organic Conservation, 83(3),247-257.
  • 3 Aubry, Ok.B. & Raley, C.M. (2002) The Pileated Woodpecker as a Keystone Habitat Modifier within the Pacific Northwest. USDA Forest Service, PNW Analysis Station, Olympia, WA.
  • 4 Bonar, R.L. (2000). Availability of pileated woodpecker cavities and use by different species. Journal of Wildlife Administration, 64(1), 52-59.


  • Bull, E. L. & J. A. Jackson (2020). Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), model 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.
  • Imbeau, L., Monkkonen, M. & Desrochers, A. (2002). Lengthy-Time period Results of Forestry on Birds of the Japanese Canadian Boreal Forests: a Comparability with Fennoscandia. Conservation Biology, 15(4),1151-1162.



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