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Views and opinions:  Notes from an expert on identifying woodpeckers


It’s great to have knowledgeable friends, especially friends who are willing to share what they know. Such was the instance the other evening when the phone rang. It was Bill Keaton, a good friend ready to edify this old scribe on the gender nuances of the pileated woodpecker.

Bill is a woodpecker aficionado who has lived on the wooded banks of the Little Blue River for many years, “smack dab” in prime woodpecker country. He has been a fan and a longtime observer, having even experienced seeing a nest of pileated woodpeckers and the parents feeding little ones.

He knows his stuff when it comes to woodpeckers!

Bill said proper gender identification of a pileated is as easy as looking at the woodpecker’s head. He cautioned using size as an indicator. (Apparently, there may be some big girl woodpeckers out there … or even some wimpy males.)

The male pileated woodpecker has a bright red crest running from the back of the head all the way to the start of the beak. The male also has red stripe on the cheek on the lower part of the head running from the beak back toward the bird’s neck.

Females have a partially bright red crest turning gray-colored as it runs to the base of the beak. The female also lacks the bright red cheek stripe.

The next day, I had the chance to use my newly shared knowledge, as there was a pileated woodpecker on the suet cake feeder. A quick examination showed the bright red crest did not run to the base of the beak and there were no cheek stripes – it was Mrs. Pileated Woodpecker.

Bill has a couple of custom-made, starling-free suet feeders, each capable of holding a half-dozen suet cakes. His custom woodpecker stations draw visits from woodpeckers of all stripes (pun intended): pileated, Downey, Red-headed, Red-bellied, ladder back, hairy and even Northern Flicker, and the birds empty both feeders about every week.

It’s great to have friends who know their business when it comes to birds. Now I’m waiting for Mr. Pileated Woodpecker to show up.

Firing up the smoker

If there is a food synonymous with the outdoors, it would most likely be something smoked. The flavor of smoked meat is as scrumptious as it is indescribable.

On the Friday prior to the Super Bowl, I stopped and picked up a large pack of chicken wings. Once home, I cut off and discarded the tips and cut the wings into drumettes and wingettes.

I seasoned the wing pieces with Adobo and onion powder, dropped them into a zip-lock plastic bag and put them in the refrigerator.

On Saturday afternoon, I mixed up a concoction of 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of grill seasoning and stirred in enough orange juice to make a thick, syrupy mixture. I poured syrupy liquid into the plastic bag, sealed it and rolled the bag around until all of the wing pieces were well coated. Then it was back in the fridge until around noon on Sunday.

Lightly oiling my smoker racks and filling the water pan, I emptied the bag and loaded the chicken wing pieces into the smoker. I opened the window above the smoker and put up a box fan to blow the smoke from the garage. I then cold-smoked the wing pieces for 3 hours.

When they came out of the smoker, I crisped them up on the gas grill and added a liberal coating of barbeque sauce. I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but they were so good you would “slap your Grandma” for reaching for the last piece.

The smoked wings, served with baked beans, homemade bread, cinnamon peach slices and homemade Moscato wine, was worth the effort. I remember the meal … but I still don’t know who won the Super Bowl!

Firewood available at state park

The public can cut certain downed trees in designated areas at Brookville Lake and Whitewater Memorial State Park for firewood through March 31. Trees eligible for firewood have fallen as a result of natural causes or have been dropped by property staff. They are along roadsides or in public areas such as campsites and picnic areas.

The cost of one pickup truckload is $10. All proceeds will be used for resource management and restoration efforts, including replacement of trees in campgrounds and other public areas.

Permit sales were scheduled to end on Feb. 28, but sales have been extended through March because firewood remains available. Permits are available at the Mounds State Recreation Area and Whitewater Memorial State Park offices.

The Mounds office is open between 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Whitewater office is open the same time daily, except Sunday and Wednesday. A firewood permit must be obtained for each load.

Permits are not available on observed state holidays. Wood may be cut and removed between 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily. For more information, call 765-458-5565. (Firewood from state parks is for personal use only and cannot be sold.)


The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers with questions or comments may contact Jack Spaulding by email at or by writing to him in care of this publication.


WOOD-SMOKED BARBEQUE chicken wings, baked beans, homemade bread, cinnamon peach slices and homemade Moscato makes for some really good country eating.

(Jack Spaulding photo)