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.

4 thoughts on “Woodpeckers: Pileated Woodpecker”

  1. We have these birds on our property in northern Idaho. Two or three winters ago they feasted on the bugs in a large Ponderosa Pine, completely removing the outer bark from about four feet above the ground to, as an estimate, about 80 feet up. As you say, the tree was dying anyway. Bark beetles are a problem here, and I suspect that was what the woodpeckers were eating. It was striking to see the tree’s red inner bark; so different from the rest of the trees around it.

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