Category Archives: Woodpeckers

Woodpeckers: Pileated Woodpecker

Photo of Pileated Woodpecker (male)

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.

Right up Close: Downy Woodpecker

Photo of Downy Woodpecker

I photographed this Downy Woodpecker yesterday at the Plainville Cemetery. Her steady call notes alerted me to her location. Unlike males, females lack red on the back of their heads.

Photo of Downy Woodpecker

This is the smallest woodpecker in New England and very similar in plumage to the larger Hairy Woodpecker.  Telling the two apart by size alone can be tricky if only one species is present.  One difference is that Downy Woodpeckers have black spots on their outer tail feathers (noticeable in the top photo, but not always easy to see in the field) whereas Hairy Woodpeckers have all white outer tail feathers. Bill length is another good field mark, with Hairy Woodpeckers having substantially longer bills relative to their head size.

Photo of Downy Woodpecker