The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in North America. It’s about the size of a Crow and measures up to 19 in. (49 cm) long with a wingspan up to 29.5 in. (75 cm). They are forest birds that like older forests with large dead trees and fallen wood where they can find their favorite food, carpenter ants. They have adapted to the younger forests in the eastern US though, and can be even be found in suburban areas. Their range includes the eastern US, southern Canada (except the prairies), northern Idaho and the West Coast down to northern California. They are mostly black with white stripes on the neck and head and a large red crest.
The name “Pileated” refers to that red crest. It comes the Latin pileatus meaning “capped”. This is a male, as distinguished by the red whisker.
They create large rectangular holes when they are digging into a tree or log to find ants. These holes end up as homes for many other animals, including swifts, owls, ducks, bats, and pine martens. You can locate them by the racket they make as they whack away at the wood, throwing chips everywhere. Small trees have been known to snap after one of the birds has finished its ant buffet. Having one decide to probe your house for ants is the only real trouble these birds cause though. You can imagine the damage that beak can do to your wood!
This is a picture I took two years ago. It shows more of the white patch on the wing, plus a bit of the more extensive white area under the wings that you only see when the bird is flying. Notice that this is a female…no red whisker.
Acknowledgement: many of the facts I related above are from the Cornell Lab “All About Birds” website. These are the folks that also bring you eBird and the Merlin ID apps.
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Enjoyed learning more about this gorgeous bird. Great photos!