Pileated woodpecker

Large woodpecker of North America – pileated woodpecker facts

Pileated woodpeckers are the largest living north american woodpeckers

Pileated woodpeckers are the largest of the woodpeckers of North America (except for the ivory billed woodpecker and its’ close relative the imperial woodpecker, which are both thought to be extinct).  In this article you will find many interesting pileated woodpecker facts. You will find cool pictures of pileated woodpeckers, learn how to identify Pileated woodpeckers, find out what type of habitat they live in, nesting, mating, and breeding details, diet and feeding preferences, range, other noteworthy behavioral traits, and what types of voice patterns and communication (sound, song, call) a pileated woodpecker exhibits.  All of this data will help in their identification.

Pileated woodpecker identification – color, markings, features

pileated woodpecker pictures

  • Mostly black color with white on face extending down side of neck, and black line across eye
  • Black wings with white on undersides of wings
  • Male has red crown / crest extending from base of bill to top of back (nape), and red line extending from bill across face
  • Female has red crown / crest only on nape (does not extend to base of bill), and black line extending from bill across face



Pileated woodpecker size

Pileated woodpeckers are large and are about 18 inches tall

  • North America’s largest woodpecker
  • about the size of a Crow – 18 inches
  • bill is about 2.5 inches
  • wingspan about 29 inches
  • weight about 9-12 ounces


Pileated woodpecker range

Pileated woodpecker range

  • central and eastern United States – western North Dakota south to eastern Texas and all states east of that line, western Montana, northern Idaho, western Washington, western Oregon, and northern California
  • most of Canada except northern Quebec and all of Newfoundland

Pileated woodpecker population statistics

A female pileated woodpecker will typically lay between 3 and 5 eggs when nesting

  • according to various bird counts conducted through out its’ range, the population of pileated woodpeckers is steadily increasing

Will pileated woodpeckers come to a bird feeder?

Read this article How to attract woodpeckers to learn more.

What do pileated woodpeckers eat?

Pileated woodpecker factsFor more details go to pileated woodpecker diet

Pileated woodpecker habitat

Pileated’s inhabit old growth mature forests in the western parts of their range. In the eastern parts of their range they can be found in old and new growth forests, forested woodlots, and occasionally in parks and suburban areas. However, since individual Pileated’s have a fairly large home territory (typically 100-200 acres), they usually require large forested tracts of land. They are probably most commonly found in large deciduous forests, particularly those which contain a large percentage of standing dead trees and fallen dead trees. Pileated’s live in oak and pine forests, birch forests, and southern cypress swamps.

Pileated woodpecker nest – nesting, breeding, and mating

Adult pileated woodpeckers feed their babies by regurgitating food and placing it into the babies mouthsPileated’s almost always nest in free standing large dead trees, but they will sometimes accept and use an artificial nest box. Because of past forestry practices of cutting down dead trees, competition for nesting sites with other cavity nesting woodpeckers (like red headed woodpeckers and hairy woodpeckers), animals, and other birds (like owls and starlings) can be quite fierce. Fortunately, modern forestry practices have realized the environmental benefit and importance of not cutting down all the dead trees during timber harvesting, so the number of potential nesting sites for birds is no longer drastically decreasing. Both male and female Pileated’s participate in chiseling out the nest cavity, but the male does most of it. The entrance hole to the nest is normally about 3 and 1/2 inches in diameter, the depth about 1 to 2 feet, and as the hole goes deeper into the tree it generally gets a little wider so that there is more room at the bottom of the hole for eggs and incubation. The bottom of the nest is unlined, usually containing only a few wood chips. Pileated’s breed and mate once a year, usually in spring. They typically lay between 3 and 5 solid white colored eggs, which measure about 1 inch by 1.5 inches. Egg incubation is about 16 days and the nesting period is normally complete after about 28 days.

Pileated woodpecker call and sounds

Pileated woodpeckers sometimes travel in family groups consisting of a breeding pair of adults and one or more juveniles from the previous years nesting periodBoth male and female pileated’s use multiple ‘cuck cuck cuck’ calls that can last for 10-15 seconds for locating each other, and a ‘woykah-woykah-woykah’ call used during courtship and breeding. Both sexes also ‘drum’ (peck rapidly on the sides of trees and branches), preferring to ‘drum’ on hollow dead logs so that the sound may be heard over great distances during courtship and for establishing territory boundaries.

Other noted behavioral traits of Pileated woodpeckers

The ivory billed woodpecker and the imperial woodpecker are close relatives of the pileated woodpecker, but are believed to be extinct.Since a Pileated woodpeckers favorite food is carpenter ants, and carpenter ants usually live in deep tunnels within dead and decaying trees, these woodpeckers are known for hammering and chiseling out large and deep rectangular sections of dead trees in order to get at, extract, and eat these ants. Consequently, underneath and on the ground of the trees they feed on, can be found immense amounts of wood chips, tree bark, and shavings. Pileated woodpeckers are North America’s largest (non-extinct) woodpecker – the ivory billed woodpecker and its’ close relative the imperial woodpecker are believed to have been extinct since about the late 1950′s. Pileated’s are very vocal, and their calls, drumming, and hammering are extremely loud and can be heard from very far away (up to a half mile or more)!