Friday, March 22, 2013

Pileated Woodpecker

I see Pileated Woodpeckers around our house or hear them (they have a wild jungle-type call) almost daily, but they don't always come close enough to take pictures. They did a couple of days ago, though. This is the female. She doesn't have the red mustache seen on the male Pileated. There is little difference in size between the sexes that I can tell and they are almost the same size as an American Crow. With the exception of the Ivory-billed woodpecker, they are the largest woodpecker in North America, but the Ivory-billed is thought to be extinct.

The red crest on the female doesn't extend quite as far as the male. Her breast has more black in it than his, but that may not be an identifying difference. You almost never see one without the other.

They prefer mature woods, a plentiful source of rotted or rotting logs and the insects they are partial to eating. Because of their penchant for punky trees, you are just as likely to see them on the ground or a few feet off the ground rather than high in a tree. They and the other woodpeckers that frequent our property are why I try not to cut down dead trees. I'd rather nature takes its course - unless there is a danger of a tree falling on the house.

This is the male. Notice the red mustache and the red crown extending all the way to the bill. He also has more white on his breast. I believe they mate for life. They have a distinctive way of carving a nest cavity. It is more of a rounded rectangle than a round hole like other other woodpeckers.

Since their eyes are on the side of their head, if I hadn't taken this photo, I would have never guessed they could look forward. But, you can see that is definitely what he is doing.

Notice how the feathers on the chin extend almost half-way down the bill. When they are banging on a tree or log, their drumming is often much slower than the fast drumming of other woodpeckers. It often sounds like someone using a hammer rather than a jack hammer.

This is not a particularly good shot, but it does allow you to see the underside of their wings which shows a surprising amount of white.

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