- ORDER: Piciformes
- FAMILY: Picidae
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
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.
- Picamaderos Norteamericano (Spanish)
- Grand Pic (French)
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
- The Pileated Woodpecker digs characteristically rectangular holes in trees to find ants. These excavations can be so broad and deep that they can cause small trees to break in half.
- The feeding excavations of a Pileated Woodpecker are so extensive that they often attract other birds. Other woodpeckers, as well as House Wrens, may come and feed there.
- The Pileated Woodpecker prefers large trees for nesting. In young forests, it will use any large trees remaining from before the forest was cut. Because these trees are larger than the rest of the forest, they present a lightning hazard to the nesting birds.
- A Pileated Woodpecker pair stays together on its territory all year round. It will defend the territory in all seasons, but will tolerate new arrivals during the winter.
- The oldest known Pileated Woodpecker was a male, and at least 12 years, 11 months old when he was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Maryland.