Archive for Saturday, July 16, 2005

Rare bird attracts watchers

Canada woodpecker appears in Elkhart

July 16, 2005


— A little bird has made a big impression in the far southwest corner of Kansas.

Bird-watchers reported spotting a three-toed woodpecker a week and a half ago near Elkhart. Quickly, birders from as far away as Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska had traveled to the small town on the Oklahoma border in hopes of catching a glimpse.

"Quite a number of people made it out there within 24 hours after he was spotted," said Wichita bird-watcher Pete Janzen. "I had to wait a week to go chase it and then missed welcoming my daughter back from five weeks in Europe ... so she wasn't impressed with my prioritizing."

Bird experts say the three-toed woodpecker lives mostly in Canada and rarely makes it down to Kansas.

"It's anybody's guess why he's here," said Winfield ornithologist Max C. Thompson. "He could have headed out and something happened to his navigation."

For bird-watchers, the woodpecker's visit has been a special treat, especially coming in the middle of the summer as opposed to the normal bird-watching periods of spring and fall as birds migrate.

"After thinking about it a couple of days, I decided I had to go," said Kevin Groeneweg, past president of the Wichita Audubon Society. "This is one of these kinds of birds that may never show up in Kansas again."

The bird is about the size of a robin and has a yellow cap of feathers, which mark him as a male. Observers said the woodpecker has shown little of its natural fear of people, getting within six to eight feet of bird-watchers.

Whether the bird is still near Elkhart is unknown. Observers said they haven't seen it at its usual haunts since early this week.


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