My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Pileated Woodpecker, Dryocopus pileatus

The Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) is a very large North American woodpecker, roughly crow-sized, inhabiting deciduous forests in eastern North America, the Great Lakes, the boreal forests of Canada, and parts of the Pacific coast. It is also the largest woodpecker in the United States, excepting the possibly extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

These birds mainly eat insects, especially carpenter ants and wood-boring beetle larvae. They also eat fruits, nuts, and berries, including poison ivy berries. Pileated Woodpeckers will often chip out large and roughly rectangular holes in trees while searching out insects, especially ant galleries. They also will lap up ants by reaching with their long tongue into crevices. They are self-assured on the vertical surfaces of large trees but can seem awkward while feeding on small branches and vines. Pileated woodpeckers may also forage on or near the ground, especially around fallen, dead trees, which can contain a smorgasbord of insect life. They may forage around the sides of human homes or even cars and can occasionally be attracted to suet-type feeders. Although they are less likely feeder visitors than smaller woodpeckers, Pileateds may regularly be attracted to them in areas experiencing harsh winter conditions.

Usually, Pileated woodpeckers excavate their large nests in the cavities of dead trees. Woodpeckers make such large holes in dead trees that the holes can cause a small tree to break in half. The roost of a Pileated Woodpecker usually has multiple entrance holes. Pileated Woodpeckers raise their young every year in a hole in a tree. In April, the hole made by the male attracts a female for mating and raising their young. Once the brood is raised, the Pileated Woodpeckers abandon the hole and will not use it the next year. When abandoned, these holes—made similarly by all woodpeckers—provide good homes in future years for many forest song birds and a wide variety of other animals. Locally, owls and tree-nesting ducks may largely rely on holes made by Pileateds in which to lay their nests. Even mammals such as raccoons may use them. Other woodpeckers and smaller birds such as wrens may be attracted to Pileated holes to feed on the insects found in them. Ecologically, the entire woodpecker family is important to the well-being of many other bird species. The Pileated Woodpecker will also nest in nest boxes about 15 ft (4.6 m) off the ground.

A Pileated Woodpecker pair stays together on its territory all year round and is a non-migratory species. It will defend the territory in all seasons, but will tolerate floaters during the winter. When clashing with other pileateds, they engage in much chasing, calling, striking with the wings, and jabbing with the bill.

Like most woodpeckers, male pileateds engage in drumming.  While it may look like the same action as when they are looking for insects, drumming is most commonly to proclaim a territory. Hollow trees with a very hard outer shell of wood are often used to make the loudest sound possible, most often in the spring. I don’t know about pileateds, but other woodpecker species will use the same tree or limb for drumming on a recurring basis.

On to the photos.

Pileated woodpecker

Male Pileated woodpecker

Pileated woodpecker

Male Pileated woodpecker

Pileated woodpecker

Male Pileated woodpecker

Pileated woodpecker

Male Pileated woodpecker

Pileated woodpecker

Male Pileated woodpecker

A horrible shot of two pileated woodpeckers

A horrible shot of two pileated woodpeckers

Pileated woodpecker

Male Pileated woodpecker

Pileated woodpecker

Male Pileated woodpecker

I didn’t know that there was a difference in the coloration between the males and females until I started this post. The male has a red stripe on its lower jaw that is black on the females. So, I am going to have to get a few better photos of females to add to this. Oh, one other thing, it is said that Walter Lang based his cartoon character, Woody Woodpecker, on pileated woodpeckers.

This is number 14 in my photo life list, only 336 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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10 responses

  1. Vicki

    thank you for the information, and for the photos..

    January 28, 2013 at 11:32 am

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment!

      January 28, 2013 at 2:16 pm

  2. My daughter found out that woodpeckers will also drum on metal roofs. At sunup every day!

    January 29, 2013 at 6:12 am

    • A natural, living alarm clock! One that your daughter probably could have lived without. 🙂

      January 29, 2013 at 10:16 am

  3. These are awesome birds- good photos!

    February 1, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    • Thanks, now I need better shots of a female.

      February 2, 2013 at 1:43 am

  4. reall nice series of pictures. I finally got one good picture this week, checkk it out.Pileated Woodpeckers

    Michael

    September 5, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    • Thanks, I saw the one you posted, and “Liked” it.

      September 6, 2013 at 2:57 am

      • I saw that you had ‘liked’ it. Thank you. I visit your site alot since I found it back awhile ago. I see you visit my site too, thank you! I love all your pictures!

        Michael

        September 9, 2013 at 9:25 pm

      • Thank you also for following my blog.

        September 10, 2013 at 2:14 am