SWANTON — Just over nine years ago, a tornado struck an area of Oak Openings Metropark. The majority of the damage seemed to be an are behind the Oak Openings lodge and just west of a walking/biking path that was once a part of Wilkins Road.
However, during the cleanup, an amazing thing happened.
The area known as Tornado Alley was attracting red headed woodpeckers, as well as the pileated woodpecker. Before the tornado, pileated woodpeckers were rarely seen in Oak Openings. But since then, the area has become a haven to both kinds of woodpeckers.
Because of that, some dead trees, which had their tops chopped off by the tornado, were left, because both woodpeckers tend to like open areas that include dead trees.
While the pileated can be found in wooded areas, according to allaboutbirds.com, pileateds are “forest birds that require large, standing dead trees and downed wood.”
The pileated is the largest woodpecker in the continent. According to wikipedia.org, is 16-19 inches long, with a wingspan of 26-30 inches. The bird spots a red crest with a black back , along with a white line down the middle of the throat. It eats mainly insects, especially carpenter ants and beetle larva and will also eat fruits and nuts. Pileateds do not migrate.
The red-headed woodpecker, also according to wikipedia, is 7.5-9.8 inches, with a wingspan of nearly 17 inches. They have “a large red head and a black back, with white wing patches, along with a white and unstreaked belly.”
Red-heads eat insects and will catch them in three ways, by hammering into trees, catching them in air, or catching them on the ground. They also eat fruits and seeds, along with acorns.
Both the red headed and pileated woodpeckers have been increasing their numbers in Oak Openings since Tornado Alley was formed. As a result, Matt Anderson, one of the authors of “Birds of the Toledo Area,” said Oak Openings has become a stronghold for both woodpeckers.
“Pileated woodpeckers are absolutely increasing in numbers in the Oak Openings (their NW Ohio stronghold) and other sites around this part of the state,” Anderson said. “This has been a trend since the late 1990s, before which this species had been almost totally absent (just a handful of records) in the Toledo area for more than 100 years.”
Along with the open area behind the Oak Openings lodge, some other areas of the metropark have become attractive to red headed woodpeckers. Toledo Metroparks management has set aside areas specifically, so that this species has been able to thrive. Oak Openings may be the top area of the state of Ohio to find the red-headed woodpecker.
“The Metroparks’ active management plan to create more oak savanna has likewise been a boon to this species, which much prefers open or at least fairly open habitat,” Anderson said. “Yeah, I counted 53 in Tornado Alley on March 9. According to eBird, that’s an all-time single-day high for the state of Ohio.”