The bold, crow-sized pileated woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in North America, and one of the largest woodpecker species in the world.
- Bill: Large, straight, dark
- Size: 18 inches long with 28-inch wingspan, long neck
- Colors: Black, white, red, dark gray
- Markings: Dimorphic species. Males are solid black though the underparts may appear dark gray. Cheeks and throat are marked with thick black and white stripes and a white line continues down the bird's side. The vibrant red crest extends from the forehead to the nape, and the mustache is a darker red. Females have the same markings but a black mustache and forehead, and their red crest is shorter and less brilliant. Both genders show large white underwing patches in flight and have black legs and feet.
Insects, nuts, fruit
Habitat and Migration:
Pileated woodpeckers inhabit old forests with large trees year-round throughout the boreal region of central Canada and the Pacific Northwest as far south as northern California. Their range extends through the eastern United States from Minnesota, Iowa and the eastern portions of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to the Atlantic coast, though they are absent from plains areas and grasslands.
While these birds do not sing, their loud, rapid "kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk" calls are just as distinctive and slightly accelerate toward the end of the call. The drumming of pileated woodpeckers is relatively slow and even, but also accelerates near the end of each sequence. There are long gaps between bursts of drumming.
The pileated woodpecker is a solitary bird but can be found in pairs, especially during the breeding season. These birds will defend the same territory throughout the year, but are more tolerant of other woodpeckers in the winter. When foraging, they will use their powerful bills to bore deep, rectangular holes or peel off strips of bark in search of insects, and they will feed on large trees as well as fallen logs.
These are monogamous birds and the male parent will do most of the 16-18 days of necessary incubation. Both parents care for the altricial young for 26-28 days after hatching. A mated pair will raise one brood of 2-8 eggs each year.
Attracting Pileated Woodpeckers:
These woodpeckers tend to be shy but will come to backyards with sufficient large trees and where suet or nuts are offered. Backyard birders should leave old trees or fallen logs in place to attract foraging birds.
- Ivory-Billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis)
- Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius)
Photo – Pileated Woodpecker – Male © Noël Zia Lee
Photo – Pileated Woodpecker – Male With Chicks © Gary Irwin