The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the most stunning birds I have ever seen. As a sophomore at Hamilton College, in upstate New York, I often observed a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers that frequented the tangled forest that lined the road leading to the house I lived in. The loud drumming of the giant woodpeckers would be audible from within the building’s stone walls, and would invariably result in me racing for my binoculars, stumbling outdoors, and watching motionless for minutes as the red crested woodpeckers scaled tree after tree, before taking flight across the valley.
Description: The Pileated Woodpecker measures about 18 inches in length. It has a flaming red crest, white face with black eye stripe, and black body. White extends from the face to the neck. Males have a red mustache. Females look similar, but have less red on the crest. In flight, Pileated Woodpeckers show white wing patches.
Status/Habitat: The Pileated Woodpecker, America’s largest woodpecker, is fairly common in dense mixed or deciduous forests, wet woodlands, parks with mature trees, and even suburban neighborhoods. Unlike its close relative, the possibly extinct Ivory Billed Woodpecker, the Pileated Woodpecker has adapted well to altered habitats and human encroachment.
Range/Diet: Pileated Woodpeckers range throughout the east and midwest. Some Pileated Woodpeckers also occur in parts of the Pacific Northwest and California. Pileated Woodpeckers are non-migratory, and are as likely to be seen in winter as spring or summer. Pileated Woodpeckers are generally shy birds, but may come to suet feeders in appropriate settings. Pileated Woodpeckers use their long, sticky tongues to burrow under tree bark for insects and insect larvae. Like the Northern Flicker, the Pileated Woodpecker may forage on the ground for ants.
Pileated Woodpecker Video
Pileated Woodpecker Calls and Drumming