Zoo introduces Norman the pileated woodpecker

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Norman the pileated woodpecker. Courtesy John Ball Zoo

John Ball Zoo’s new arrival is a rescue, and his job is to help educate visitors on his species and its history. 

The zoo recently announced its newest addition and member of its Ambassador Animal Program, a pileated woodpecker named Norman.

Norman was rescued by a rehabilitation veterinarian when he was very young, after the tree his nest was in was cut down and his leg was broken. The veterinarian was able to repair his leg and nurse him back to health. Given how young he was when he was injured and the care needed to repair his leg, Norman was not able to learn how to be a wild woodpecker, and as a result, is not able to be released in the wild, making a zoo life perfect for him. 

Norman came to John Ball Zoo to be an ambassador for his species, helping to educate guests about woodpeckers and other native birds. He is currently the only known ambassador pileated woodpecker in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) network.

Norman is settling in to his new location, and zoo staff are taking the time to acclimate him to his new environment. 

“We have been working with Norman daily to better understand his behavior, and we continue to learn new things every day. We’ve seen him make great progress in his comfort level in new situations and have begun taking him on walks throughout the zoo to meet guests,” said Erin Moloney, one of Norman’s primary trainers. 

“It’s really exciting to have Norman in our program. Pileated woodpeckers are native to West Michigan and can be heard in our own backyards, but few people have seen them up close. Seeing Norman is an extra special connection for guests.”

John Ball Zoo’s Ambassador Animal Program is a collection of reptiles, insects, birds and small mammals that participate in up-close experiences with guests at the zoo and in off-site travel programs. 

Pileated woodpeckers are the largest woodpecker species in most of North America. They can be found in Canada, the northwest U.S. and most areas of the eastern U.S. Their populations in the eastern U.S. declined sharply in the 18th and 19th centuries with the clearing of eastern forests. Since about 1900, the pileated woodpecker has made a gradual comeback, with the species becoming common again in some areas.

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