Observation of Nesting Pileated Woodpeckers
Recently, I was inspired by a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers as I watched them build a nest in a tree across the street from my property. It was at that point that I realized how much we humans can learn from their diligence.
My observations continue as I grow increasingly fascinated with these large, colorful birds. For starters, I wanted to be able to differentiate the male from the female. In my research, I discovered some interesting facts about these beautiful creatures, which I will share with you.
How to Identify Male From Female
First, let me show you the difference between the male and female. The bird on the left is female—she has a gray forehead and black and white striped cheeks. The photo on the right is of the male. Male Pileated Woodpeckers have a red crest running from the base of their beak, culminating in a peak at the back of their head. They also have a red stripe on their cheeks.
Interesting Facts About Pileated Woodpeckers
Now that we can identify male and female Pileated Woodpeckers, I’ll fill you in on what I’ve learned so far.
- Pileated is a derivative of pileatus, which is Latin for “crested” or “capped”. Makes sense, right?
- The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest of its species in the U.S.
- They do not migrate. They are permanent residents of wherever they call home. Typically, Pileated Woodpeckers are found in deciduous forests in eastern North America, the Great Lakes, parts of the Pacific Coast and the boreal forest of Canada.
- The Pileated Woodpecker is native to North America.
- They mate for life, as do many bird species.
- Males begin excavating in April. This attracts the female with whom he will mate and raise their young. Smart guy, huh? Build her a home before they pair up. What a concept!
- The male and female work together in building their nest (once she says “yes”).
- Eggs are laid in clutches of 3–5. They are white, slightly over one inch long and up to one inch in width.
- The incubation period is 15–18 days. Both the male and female share in keeping the eggs warm, typically doing so in shifts.
- Pileated Woodpeckers’ diet consists mainly of carpenter ants, but they will dine on other types of ants as well as termites.
- Both parents feed the nestlings, via regurgitation, until they are old enough to leave the nest (about a month after hatching).
Up-Close and Personal Observations
A couple of days after I wrote, Do as Woodpeckers Do to Achieve Your Goals, I witnessed an adult flying out of the nest. It was nearing dusk, and Pileateds don’t leave their eggs unattended, so I guess the changing of the guards had already happened. I ran inside to get my camera to document my new-found friends’ activities. Here’s what I was able to capture:
Attracting a Mate
Then, I saw something I’d not witnessed before: The woodpecker flew from the pole down onto a neighbor’s front yard. It was at this point I was able to identify my friend as a female. Hurray! The male had succeeded in attracting his mate and starting a family! After a bit of prancing around, she flew across the street where I assume she was getting a bite to eat.
Nest in the Making
I took the original photo of the male boring his nest-hole in the tree across from me on April 15th. The nest was not yet quite complete. By April 16th the nest was habitable. The above photos were taken on April 19th with the parents’ cohabiting. Based on that information, I calculate we should have some baby Pileated Woodpeckers somewhere around May 7th.
I checked on the nest several times throughout the day. I could see it from my bistro on the front porch. One morning as I was having my coffee, I witnessed the changing of the guards. It was amazing! Of course, being bleary-eyed and not fully awake, I didn’t have my camera with me nor did I have time to retrieve it.
But all is not lost. I found a video on YouTube (below) that gives you a pretty good idea of what I saw.
Habitable NestClick thumbnail to view full-size
Male and Female Pileated Woodpeckers Sharing Nesting Duties
I hope you’re enjoying this journey as much as I am. I see these beautiful birds in my neck of the woods all the time, but this is the first time I’ve been privy to the incredible process our wildlife goes through to perpetuate life and enhance the lives of us humans.
I feel incredibly blessed and want to share my observations with you, my beloved friends and readers. How often in life do we have the opportunity to see the beauty of nature in the making?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Shauna L Bowling