Appearance

The Pileated Woodpecker is slightly smaller than the American Crow. Their length ranges from 40cm to 49cm long, and they weigh between 250g to 350g. Overall, The Pileated Woodpecker's feathers appear black. The Pileated Woodpecker has a long tail that they use as brace when chiseling. Underneath their wings, they have white wing linings which are visible during flight and when a wing is extended. They have a white line that starts at the bill and runs across the cheek and down the neck. Both the male and female have the red crests. The red crest on the male starts from the bill and runs to the nape. Whereas on the female the red crest starts farther back on the head. The females lack the red mustache stripe that the males have on the side of their face. The eye color on Adult birds is yellow. The upper part of the bill is blackish in color, while the bottom part of the bill is considered "horn colored."

Characteristics/Facts

  • The Pileated Woodpecker was the inspiration for the cartoon character - Woody Woodpecker.
  • The Pileated Woodpecker is an "ecosystem engineer." Other Birds as well as Mammals depend on the cavities of the Pileated Woodpecker for survival. Also, other bird species feed from the excavations they create.
  • The Pileated Woodpecker is the third largest woodpecker in North America. The Imperial Woodpecker and the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker are larger although they are generally considered extinct.
  • Territory size varies between 1000 and 4000 acres. They will defend their territory year-round.
  • Northern birds tend to be larger in size than birds in southern populations.
  • They sleep in roost cavities for the night. Each bird normally sleeps alone, one bird per roost. Although, on some occasions more than one bird occupied a roost. The roost trees they use have multiple entrance holes to provide alternate escape routes from predators. Roosting and nesting in cavities provides protection from the weather and from predators. The roost and nest cavities provide insulation for the Pileated Woodpecker.
  • Predators of the Pileated Woodpecker include: Northern Goshawk, Cooper's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Great Horned Owl, American Marten, Gray Fox, Barred Owl, Weasels, Squirrels, and the Black Rat Snake.
  • Drumming is done by the Pileated Woodpecker to declare their territory. They drum by striking their bill on a hard surface such as a tree or utility pole. Drumming is done at 14.5-16.8 beats/second.
  • Pileated Woodpeckers are monogamous. Meaning, the stay with the same mate for life.

Range/Distribution

The Pileated Woodpecker resides in North America throughout Canada and the United States. Their range covers from the northern areas of Canada, even in the Yukon Territory, to southerly areas of the United States such as Florida and along the Gulf Coast. Their east-west range covers from the east coast of Nova Scotia to the west coast of California.

Habitat

The Pileated Woodpecker occupies areas with mature forests that contain a lot of dead trees, called snags. They occupy both coniferous and deciduous forests. They also thrive in urban areas that contain many large trees and urban forested areas such as parks and golf courses. They also make a home along river corridors.

Food/Diet

The Pileated Woodpecker's favorite food item is the Carpenter Ant. The Pileated Woodpecker also eats other insects such as wood boring beetle larvae. As well as wild fruits and nuts. They obtain their food by scaling bark off trees and creating excavations in trees to expose ant galleries. The Pileated Woodpecker uses it's long tongue to catch and extract ants from tunnels. The Pileated Woodpecker has been seen drinking water from streams and ponds. The Pileated Woodpecker is also sometimes a visitor to suet and bird feeders.

Breeding/Reproduction

Each spring a new nest cavity is excavated. Both the male and female share the work of creating a new nest cavity. The Pileated Woodpecker has one brood per season. The average clutch size is four eggs, but can range from one to six. Both parents incubate the eggs. At the time of hatching, the young are naked and helpless. Both parents share in the feeding of the young. The young are fed by regurgitation. Fledgling usually occurs after 24-30 days, differing with different latitudes and locations. After Fledging, the young depend on their parents for several months, at least until September. The parents provide food for them and teach them to acquire their own food during this time. In the fall, the young leave their parents and wander until spring. They will then nest and acquire their own territories.

Conservation/Managment

The Pileated Woodpecker is not currently listed as a threatened or endangered species, although it is a protected species. The Pileated Woodpecker depends upon mature forest habitats. Timber harvest and other human activity that destroys habitat have a significant impact on the Pileated Woodpecker, and threatens their existence. The Pileated Woodpecker was considered rare prior to 1900, as a result of habitat loss and hunting. The Pileated Woodpecker is no longer endangered and is generally considered as stable.






References:
Bull, E. L., and J. E. Jackson. 1995. Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus). In The Birds of North America, No. 148 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornthologists' Union, Washington, D.C.


 
 
     
 
 All images on this site are copyright by Barret Monchka (www.barretmonchka.com).