Species at Risk... by Yvette Bree
The Friends of Sandbanks are pleased to provde this series of pages written by well-known Sandbanks Park Naturalist Yvette Bree.
By virtue of her mmore than twenty-five years at the Park, Yvette is by far the expert voice to inform us about the natural history of the Park!
She was a major contributor to our book "Sandscapes: Exploring the Dunes of Sandbanks Provincial Park"
What are Species at Risk?
- **definition here**
Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)
Ontario is home to nine different species of woodpeckers, most of which have been seen at Sandbanks. One of the less common, but perhaps the most striking, is the Red-headed Woodpecker.
I often hear that people have seen a "red-headed" woodpecker, but remember that most woodpeckers have some red on their heads. The difference with the striking Red-headed Woodpecker is that both the male and female have an entirely red head. The blocky black and white body pattern, particularly obvious in flight, also helps with identification.
Red-headed Woodpeckers are listed as a Species of Special Concern under the Ontario Endangered Species Act, which means they live in the wild in Ontario, are not Endangered or Threatened, but may become Threatened or Endangered due to a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats. Red-headed Woodpeckers have declined by more than 60% in Ontario in the last 20 years, primarily due to habitat loss from forestry and agricultural practices. Road mortality and the removal of standing dead trees (snags) have also had a negative impact.
A pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers was a welcome sight each spring at Sandbanks more than 25 years ago. That pair nested near the old Lakeshore Lodge for several years. Remarkably, a second pair showed up one spring, and although we were overjoyed at seeing them, the two pairs spent the entire spring fighting over territory. Neither pair nested and that was the last we saw of them for almost 20 years.
The Red-headed Woodpecker finally returned - this time to the Dunes Beach Day Use Area - five years ago. A pair nested successfully for two straight years. They returned for a third year, but didn't stay long. A pair was seen later in the summer down the West Lake bar, probably the same two birds, but we don't know if they nested there. Sadly, that was the last time they were seen at Sandbanks.
We are still hoping that they will return one spring. If you're lucky enough to spot one at Sandbanks, please let us know!
We'll do what we can to protect their nest site to ensure the future of these beautiful birds.