I would first like to offer something of an introduction about this week's guest author, Greg Grant. I've actually had Greg on this program a couple of times before, but it has been a while. Recently, I read an article similar to this upcoming email tip in a statewide gardening magazine, and I liked what he had to say so much that I asked him to condense it down to our email tip style.
By Greg Grant
To most folks, a dead tree is an eyesore, waiting for an arborist to bring it down. But to me it's a sign of beauty and life beyond death. Ever since I was a kid, my favorite birds have been woodpeckers and bluebirds, both East Texas staples. It turns out that both need dead trees to live. It sounds crazy but it's true. You've heard that all of life is connected, right? Heck, we've all seen The Lion King. In reality, the woodpecker needs dead trees, and the bluebird needs woodpeckers.
Woodpeckers are the king of carpentry in our forests. East Texas is home to eight different species, the downy, the hairy, the yellow bellied sapsucker, the endangered red cockaded, the Northern flicker, the red bellied, the beautiful red headed, the large pileated, and formerly the majestic and reportedly extinct, ivory billed. These amazing creatures excavate holes in dead and dying trees for nesting as well as roosting. They often make more holes than they need and make completely new nesting cavities each year. This means there are many extra holes left over for other cavities dwellers. And there are plenty of cavity dwelling critters that need them.
There are eighty-five species of birds alone in North America that use cavities to nest in. This amazing list includes all the owls, the American kestrel, the beautiful wood duck, chickadees, titmice, house wrens, nuthatches, tree swallows, and my beloved bluebirds. Without woodpeckers, these gals have no place to call home. Artificial nesting boxes help, but are certainly no substitute for the large numbers needed for natural populations. And to make matters worse, the imported European starling and Eurasian sparrow vigorously colonize these boxes and cavities too.
In case you were wondering, woodpeckers don't nest in live healthy trees. They only excavate decaying ones. And the really loud "drum rolls" you hear them make are communication, not excavation. The big pileated woodpecker is famous for this loud drumming as well as his loud laugh-like cackling. He was even the original inspiration for the Woody Woodpecker cartoon character. Who'd a thunk it?
So there you have it. Acorns turn into large oaks, which turn in to old oaks, then dead oaks, then woodpecker and bluebird homes, then compost, then baby oaks again. So if it's not going to fall on your head, house, or Honda, leave them dead, so others can live.
"Let Dead Trees Live!"
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