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The Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) is a very large North American woodpecker that is quite common in its range.


Adults (40-49 cm long, 250-350 g weight) are mainly black with a red crest and a white line down the sides of the throat. Adult males have a red line from the bill to the throat and red on the front of the crown. In adult females, these are black. They show white on the wings in flight. The only North American birds of similar plumage and size are the Ivory-billed Woodpecker of the Southeastern United States and Cubamarker, and the related Imperial Woodpecker of Mexicomarker. However, unlike the Pileated, both of those species are extremely rare, if not extinct.

Distribution and Habitat

Illustration of the bird's distinctive white wing linings
Their breeding habitat is forested areas with large trees across Canadamarker, the eastern United Statesmarker and parts of the Pacificmarker coast. They usually excavate large nests in the cavities of dead trees, and often excavate a new home each year, creating habitat for other large cavity nesters.

This bird is usually a permanent resident.The Pileated Woodpecker also nests in nest boxes about 15 feet off the ground.



These birds mainly eat insects (especially beetle larvae and carpenter ants) as well as fruits, berries and nuts. They often chip out large and roughly rectangular holes in trees while searching out insects.


The call is a wild laugh, similar to the Northern Flicker. Its drumming can be very loud, often sounding like someone striking a tree with a hammer. This bird favors mature forests, but has adapted to use second-growth stands and heavily wooded parks as well.

Pileated Woodpeckers raise their young every year in a hole in the tree. In April the hole made by the male attracts a female for mating and raising their young. Once the brood is raised the Pileated Woodpeckers abandon the hole and will not use it the next year.

These holes, made similarly by all woodpeckers, when abandoned provide good homes in future years for many forest song birds. Ecologically, the entire woodpecker family is important to the well being of many other bird species.

Miscellaneous facts

  • The Pileated Woodpecker was the model for the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker.
  • The pileated woodpecker is also regionally known as the "Indian rooster" or the "Rain crow".
  • The roost of a Pileated Woodpecker usually has multiple entrance holes.
  • The sound that a Pileated Woodpecker makes when boring a hole in a tree is so loud that it can be heard over long distances.
  • Pileated Woodpeckers make such large holes in dead trees that sometimes the holes can cause a small tree to break in half.
  • Pileated Woodpeckers have been observed to move their eggs which have fallen off the nest to another site. This is a rare habit in other birds.


Image:Pileated-at-platform-feeder.jpg|A male on a platform feeder.Image:Female-pileated.jpg|Juvenile female WoodpeckerImage:PileatedWoodpeckerOnLog1.jpg|Close up at end of ant infested log.Image:PileatedWoodpeckerPair.jpg| Mated pair



  • Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  • Interesting Pileated Woodpecker Facts donated by
  • Birdchat archives--lists "Lord God Bird" as folk name for this species

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