The Pileated Woodpecker
The Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) is one of the largest, most striking forest birds on the continent. The Pileated is nearly the size of a crow, is black with bold white stripes down the neck and a flaming-red crest and scarlet cheek “mustache”. The female plumage is duller with a black forehead and black cheek “mustache”. These big woodpeckers drum on trees to claim territory and attract a mate. The bird strikes the tree with such force that is sounds like the tree is being hit with a wooden mallet. Pileated Woodpeckers are forest birds that require large, standing dead trees and downed wood. Forests can be evergreen, deciduous, or mixed
Behaviour: These common birds can be very loud and often conspicuous. These woodpeckers drill distinctive large, deep, rectangular holes in trees, and often peel of long strips of bark in search for food. They will also dig around on the ground or on fallen logs while they forage for carpenter ants, wood boring beetle larvae and variety of other insects, acorns, beechnuts, seeds of tree cones, tree nuts and various fruits. Ants are their main source of food and can make up over 40% of their diet. These birds are residents all year round and will visit bird feeders that have a mixture of suet, pecans and walnuts.
Breeding and Nesting: Pileated woodpeckers are monogamous. The female lays 3-8 white, oval eggs in a nesting cavity where they are incubated mostly by the male for 15-18 days. The young are brooded by the female and stay in the nest for 26-28 days and are fed by both parents. Pileated woodpeckers have only one brood per year.
Conservation: Pileated woodpeckers are vulnerable to habitat loss and forest fragmentation. They often must compete for excavated nesting cavities with the invasive European Starling. If you have dead or dying trees or snags on your property that are not a hazard, consider leaving them alone as they may attract Pileated Woodpeckers (as well as other woodpeckers, nuthatches, etc.) to forage, roost or even nest in them.
Thank you to Curt from Port Stanley who submitted the photo and video.