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In September of one year, while looking out the window of our house, which is located on an acreage near Armstrong, British Columbia, I noted a Pileated Woodpecker eating chokecherries. We see Pileated Woodpeckers frequently, and are close enough to observe them from the house, but I had not previously seen them eating chokecherries. In fact, I did not know that woodpeckers varied from their usual diet of insects by eating wild fruits.

But this day in September, I saw a remarkable instance of this behaviour involving four Pileated Woodpeckers. The woodpeckers were taking turns eating the ripe berries from a bush near the house. Their technique was to perch near the fruit clusters, which hung near the ends of the branches. Because the branches were thin and flexible, and the woodpeckers large and fairly heavy, the branches were bent nearly double under the bird’s weight. As a result the birds hung upside down as they plucked the berries.

Only one, or two at most, were perched on the bush at the same time. Periodically, one of the other birds, which were perched in a nearby Douglas Fir tree, would fly over and begin squabbling with one of the woodpeckers already on the bush, to the point where the interloper chased the other bird out of the bush. The displaced bird would then fly off to perch in the fir tree.

These exchanges took place every three or four minutes and were accompanied by much noisy vocalization. Within an hour, the woodpeckers had stripped the bush bare of chokecherries, with frequent bird turnover the entire time. They departed from the yard as soon as they had eaten all the fruit.

Charles Bailey, Armstrong, British Columbia, Canada