Species Identification - Birds

Pileated Woodpecker - Hylatomus pileatus

Family: Picidae


About the size of a crow, the Pileated Woodpecker inhabits deciduous forests across the U.S. It is the largest woodpecker in the U.S. since the extinction of the ivory-billed woodpecker. The southeastern Pileated Woodpecker is a subspecies (D. p. pileatus). Preferring habitats with large, mature hardwood trees, they also live in smaller woodlots with some tall trees. They eat carpenter ants, wood-boring beetle larvae, fruits, nuts, and berries. They chip out large square or rectangular holes in tree trunks searching for insects. (One square hole can be seen in a palmetto tree along Hunting Island’s Nature Trail near the pedestrian bridge.) In the spring, a male attracts a female by making a hole in the trunk of a dead tree, enticing her with a charmingly rustic abode. Once the brood is raised, the hole is abandoned and often reused by forest song birds. This is one reason it is essential for forests to retain dead trees; they have multiple uses. Pileated woodpeckers remain as a pair and do not migrate. Drumming is a territorial claim and hollow trees make the largest sound. The cartoon character “Woody the Woodpecker” was based on an acorn woodpecker, but he shares many similarities with the Pileated Woodpecker including the laugh.

Range: The Pileated Woodpecker ranges across Canada, the Great Lakes, and the northeastern seaboard to as far south as the Florida Keys. It also exists in parts of the Pacific Northwest coast.

Photos by Carl Berube

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