Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest North American woodpecker. Although the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is actually larger, its sightings (Ivory-billed) are such that it is considered near or at extinction.


Measuring 16-19 inches long with a red crest and black bill. You'll find these birds in mature forest with large trees.

pileated woodpecker at tree cavity nest site

The male Pileated has a red patch at the base of the bill whereas the female has a black patch at the base of the bill.

Pileated Woodpecker Call

The territory of these birds can be 150-200 acres. Signs of their presence can be detected by lookin for 3-6 inch holes in trees.

Using suet feeders can bring them close up for a good look.

Feeding Habits

The types of food these birds eat in the wild mainly consist of Carpenter ants and beetle larvae along with berries and nuts.

While going after carpenter ants the Pileated will leave long gashes along the tree. These insects are typically found in decaying trees and logs.

With its sticky, barbed, long tongue, the bird can reach the insects deep inside of the decaying wood.

Mating Habits

These birds have been observed performing a courtship dance. This dance consist of one bird bowing, scraping, and stepping sideways in a circle around another bird.

Pair bonds tend to be for life and pairs stay together all year long. During Fall and Winter the pairs roost at different locations during the night.

Males sometimes use the previous nest site as their night time roost.

Submitted by John From Virginia

Nesting Habits

Pileated prefer dense, mature forest for nesting. The nest cavity is excavated in a dead or decaying tree 15-70 feet above ground.

Male may be the nest site selector but both male and female will excavate with the male doing most of the excavation.

The entrance hole is about 3 1/2 inches in diameter. The depth of the cavity is between 10-24 inches deep. These large cavities will be used by Boreal Owls and Wood Ducks in future seasons.

3 baby pileated woodpeckers being fed by adult

Territories are defended throughout the year with some allowance for floaters to pass through.

The female will lay 3-5 white eggs with 4 eggs being most common. Eggs will be incubated for 15-16 days by both the male and female birds.

Both male and female will also feed the nestlings. After 24 - 28 days the young will leave the nest.

The adults and young will stay together until fall. During this time the adult birds will continue to feed them and teach them how to find their own food.

Around September, the family will break up and the young will find territories of their own.

Only one brood is raised each season but second attempts may happen if predators attack first broods. Sometimes in the same cavity.


Common predators include: Black snakes, Coopers Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Squirrels.

While pairs remain together for life, when one dies the other will not abandon the territory. They will drum and call an unmated mate from an adjacent territory.

While not a rare bird, they can be quite shy and wary. Listen for a low-pitched drumming that trails off in speed and volume at the end.

Follow the sound, and you just may find one.

Pileated Woodpecker Videos

Video Submitted by Lamar

This video was taken in my back yard in a sycamore tree. I spent about 3 hrs. in the tree to get this video of A Pileated Woodpecker feeding it's Babies.

I hope everyone enjoys this video as much as I have. THANK YOU: Lamar

Kevin from Florida shares this video with us. Filmed in Sumter County Florida using Sony HDR-SR11 camera.

Pileated Woodpecker in HD Thanks Kevin

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