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Merlin Bird ID

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    Pileated Woodpecker

    ID Info
    Silhouette WoodpeckersWoodpeckers

    Pileated Woodpecker

    Dryocopus pileatus
    • ORDER: Piciformes
    • FAMILY: Picidae
    Basic Description

    The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the biggest, most striking forest birds on the continent. It’s nearly the size of a crow, black with bold white stripes down the neck and a flaming-red crest. Look (and listen) for Pileated Woodpeckers whacking at dead trees and fallen logs in search of their main prey, carpenter ants, leaving unique rectangular holes in the wood. The nest holes these birds make offer crucial shelter to many species including swifts, owls, ducks, bats, and pine martens.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Pileated WoodpeckerRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    Look for Pileated Woodpeckers in stands of mature forest with plenty of dead trees and downed logs—deep excavations into rotten wood are telltale signs of this species. Also listen for this bird's deep, loud drumming and shrill, whinnying calls. Pileated Woodpeckers occur at all heights in the forest, and are often seen foraging on logs and near the bases of trees.

    Other Names
    • Picamaderos norteamericano (Spanish)
    • Grand Pic (French)

    Backyard Tips

    Pileated Woodpeckers sometimes visit backyard bird feeders, especially for suet. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.

    If you have dead or dying trees or snags on your property, consider leaving them alone as they may attract Pileated Woodpeckers (as well as other woodpeckers, nuthatches, etc.) to forage, roost or even nest in them.

    Consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on our Attract Birds pages. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.

    • Cool Facts