Yesterday morning (along with a butt-ton of baby birds) I was blessed with the presence of a Pileated Woodpecker, so I thought, why not make him (in this case “her”) the bird of the week?
The Pileated is the largest of the common woodpeckers in North America. It is about 15″ in length, the same size as a crow, and was the inspiration for the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker.
These birds are easy to identify, with their long bodies, zebra-striped necks, and flaming red crests. The male also sports a red mustache, while the female has a black one. And just look at the size of those claws!
Their powerful beaks are perfect for excavating nesting cavities in hollow trees. First they build an entrance, and then they drill several other holes to serve as escape routes from predators. They also chisel away at the bark near the opening to allow sap to run out and deter creatures like snakes from entering.
As this Pileated pecks at the dead branch, you can see bits of wood chips flying.
These birds use their sharp beaks and extremely long, sticky tongues to probe for insects. Their preferred dining fare is carpenter ants, but they will also eat other insects, nuts, and berries. Occasionally they will come to a feeder for suet.
Pileated Woodpeckers mate for life, and are quite territorial. They will rapidly drum on hollow trees and telephone poles to claim an area as their own.
Their long tails help to brace and balance them as they peck away at tree wood. You can see in this picture an area where the bark has been peeled back to expose ant colonies.
I can’t say that they are my favorite woodpeckers (I’d have to give that honor to the Red-bellied) but there is no denying that Pileated Woodpeckers are amazing birds that make me stand in awe of God’s creativity.
And by the way…if you could have seen me standing on top of a table on my deck, twisting every which way to try and get an unobstucted picture, you would have had a good laugh.