Of New England's nine* species of woodpeckers, the Pileated Woodpecker (PIWO) is by far the largest and the only type with a bright red crest. In flight, PIWOs flash white wing-patches. Males and females are largely similar, though only the males have red foreheads and red mustache stripes.
PIWOs feed extensively on carpenter ants and routinely drill deep, rectangular excavations to uncover their prey in tree trunks. Though PIWOs are often blamed for turning healthy trees into piles of wood chips, trees are most often dead (or dying) and thoroughly infested with wood-chewing ants (or other insects) before hole creation begins.
To learn more about these crow-sized forest-dwellers, visit All About Birds. To view the following images in full-size, click here.
*Northern Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied, and Pileated Woodpecker, account for the 6 common species; American Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpecker are residents of northern boreal forests; Red-headed Woodpecker occurs annually in New England in small numbers, but is much more common to our south and west.
Early in the week, I twitched three very rare birds (meaning I observed birds found and reported by other birders). On Monday, I traveled to Windham, NH to see the state's first Brown Booby (a tropical seabird). That evening, I witnessed a Magnificent Frigatebird (another tropical seabird) flying off Prout's Neck in Scarborough, ME. Then, on Tuesday, a first for the state of Maine Snowy Plover at Reid State Park in Georgetown was my third Life Bird in 30 hours! And two days later, I heard my FOY Yellow-billed Cuckoos at the Brownfield Bog.
Most evergreen trees have pushed out (or are in the process of pushing out) new light-green growth. The feel of the soft branch tips of some species (like Balsam Fir, American Larch, and the Norway Spruce in my backyard) reminds me of Koosh balls.
I saw or heard a handful of FOY birds in my travels, including: Olive-sided Flycatcher and Saltmarsh Sparrow in York County; Mourning Warbler, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Bicknell's Thrush, and Black-backed Woodpecker in Franklin County; and Atlantic Puffin and Arctic Tern at Petit Manan Island in Washington County.