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Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker
Dryocopus pileatus
Order Piciformes; Family Picidae

The Pileated woodpecker is a large bird about the size of a crow, but it is likely to be heard in the forest before it is seen. The loud hammering as it bores in trees for insects and the distinctive laughing call will let you know it’s nearby.

When the bird does appear up on a tree, the large red crest on the top of its white-striped head will identify it. The rest of the body, except for the white wing linings, is black;mthe wingspan can be as wide as 30 inches. (The description “pileated” refers to the red crest, from the Latin “pileus” meaning “cap”.)

Although it prefers mature forests, where trees are larger, this woodpecker also may inhabit second-growth woodlands.

Using its stout dark beak, it bores large, almost rectangular, holes in trees and logs (and even telephone poles) and pulls strips of wood away in search of beetle larvae and carpenter ants. Other food items reported include fruits, nuts, berries, frogs, and mice.

The male makes a new, very large nesting hole each year to attract a female. Used holes become homes for smaller birds and other tree dwellers. The pair remains on its territory year round.

Pileated Woodpecker
Above © Kim Hosen; suburban back yard, Woodbridge, VA; March 2010
Left © Julia Flanagan