Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest Woodpeckers in most regions of North America. Only Imperial Woodpeckers found in Western Mexico and Ivory-billed Woodpeckers found in the southern U.S. are larger in size. These birds have red heads, black bodies, and are large which makes them unmistakable. Pileated Woodpeckers preen frequently and sometimes hop around on the ground. Their flight isn’t very impressive, but it is steady. Sometimes these birds use their wings and bills to attack their prey.
10 Amazing Facts About Pileated Woodpeckers
1. Pileated Woodpeckers help control forest beetle populations!
The primary diet of Pileated Woodpeckers includes beetle larvae and ants. They forage these bugs from trees. This behavior requires them to break apart logs, resulting in faster decomposition of wood.
2. Pileated Woodpeckersare very easy to identify!
Birdwatchers in North America find it extremely easy to spot Pileated Woodpeckers. They are the largest Woodpeckers found in their native range, and they’re also the only Woodpeckers that have a black-and-white plumage in their range. In very rare cases, they get confused with Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. Currently, it seems like Ivory-billed Woodpeckers have become extinct in the U.S.
3.Pileated means “capped”!
The word pileated originated from the Latin word “pileatus” which means capped. This refers to the distinctive red crest of these birds. This crest offers a beautiful contrast to its otherwise black-and-white body and gives this species a unique appearance. Their crest also makes it easier to differentiate them from other Woodpeckers.
4. Pileated Woodpeckers make holes so large that they can cause small trees to break in half!
Pileated Woodpeckers almost exclusively nest in dead trees, and sometimes in nest boxes. These large birds obviously require large nests; therefore, they drill large holes in trees. If these trees are smaller than average, then they can possibly break apart due to excessive drilling. Not all Pileated Woodpecker holes result in such destruction, some of these birds make multiple holes in trees for roosting.
5.Pileated Woodpeckers are essential for the survival of some birds and animals!
Like other Woodpeckers, these birds abandon their nests. These nests are great homes for animals such as raccoons and songbirds. Since these holes are large, they can also accommodate birds as large as owls and tree-nesting ducks. Smaller birds may use these holes to feed on insects.
6.Pileated Woodpecker pairs use vocalizations to communicate with each other!
Not all birds are vocal throughout the year. Most female birds of any species are not very vocal, but that is not the case here. Most of their vocalizations are heard during courtship. These vocalizations are very important because they advertise their territory and drive away other birds that are looking for a suitable breeding site. Winter is when they vocalize the least. Young Pileated Woodpeckers vocalize to establish their territories.
7. Pileated Woodpeckers are known for the drumming sounds that they make!
Woodpeckers often make a variety of nonvocal sounds. These include demonstration tapping and drumming. Drumming is the sound you hear when they strike their bill on a relatively hard surface. Because drumming is a habit for Pileated Woodpeckers, it is quite rhythmic in nature. It occurs in bursts, and each burst consists of 11-30 beats per second. Bursts can last for almost 3 seconds and are subsequently repeated after every 40-60 seconds. This process might continue for up to 3 hours. This behavior is performed more frequently by males than females. It’s also more frequent during early spring as courtship displays begin.
8.Most Pileated Woodpeckers roost alone in their preferred tree hole!
There’s a very small chance of a Pileated Woodpecker pair roosting together. Some Pileated Woodpeckers in Oregon were radio-tagged to observe their roosting behavior, and these birds almost always roosted alone. On only 4 occasions did the pair roost together. During the breeding season, males spend most of their time drilling the next cavity. Once the cavity is excavated and ready for egg-laying, the males begin to roost in it. This behavior continues during brooding and incubation. Both members of the pair only nest together after the nesting period ends.
9.Pileated Woodpeckers bond for life!
Most observed pair bonds this species makes are for life. These birds spend most of their time away from each other. During the winter, some pairs might maintain consistent contact with each other but are rarely around each other. Strangely, one female was noticed mating with her son in his second year.
10. Pileated Woodpeckers can adapt to several wooded habitats!
As these birds are excellent at surviving in any wooded habitat, human habitation has not affected them much. Another species of Woodpeckers, the “Ivory-Billed Woodpecker” has perhaps been driven to extinction in the U.S. due to human habitation. Although their drilling abilities provide many birds with homes and a source of food, they can be considered a nuisance to humans. They can be especially destructive toward wooden homes.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At the Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
- Kids Bird Watching Monthly Subscription$10.00 / month
- Kid & Adult Bird Watching Starter Pack Subscription$10.00 / month and a $72.00 sign-up fee
- Kids Bird Watching Starter Pack Subscription$10.00 / month and a $19.00 sign-up fee
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Pileated Woodpeckers
The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Pileated Woodpeckers are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.