Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker
(Dryocopus pileatus)

Order:  Piciformes
Family:  Picidae

Male Pileated Woodpecker
Photo by Josh Laymon [CC SA 3.0]

Pileated Woodpecker Information

Length:  16 - 19"

Habitat:  Mature deciduous, coniferous, or mixed forests; second growth woodlands with some large trees; wooded residential areas. Prefers woodlands near streams and rivers. Presence of large, dead trees is a habitat requirement.

Diet:  Ants (especially, carpenter ants) and beetles; other insects; wild fruits and berries; nuts.

  Calls and drumming of Pileated Woodpecker

     Photo of Pileated Woodpecker at Nest Cavity

Interesting Facts about the Pileated Woodpecker

  • The pileated woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in North America. This bird is 16 - 19 inches long and weighs approximately 9 - 12 oz, with the male being 10-15% heavier than the female.
  • The territory of this bird may extend to a mile or more, which is one reason we tend to see fewer pileated woodpeckers in a given area than other types of woodpeckers.
  • The pileated woodpecker's nest cavity is usually in a dead tree about 50 feet off the ground. The nest cavity tends to be more roundish than the oblong-shaped cavity excavated by these birds in search of insects.
  • A pileated woodpecker pair will share territory throughout the year. However, the male and female birds roost separately at night. On rare occasions, they will roost in the same tree but, even then, each has its own roosting cavity.

Female Pileated Woodpecker

Female Pileated Woodpecker

Photo credit: William Morris

Pileated Woodpecker
Identification Tips

  • Very large (crow-sized) black and white woodpecker
  • Prominent red crest at rear of head
  • White throat
  • Entirely black body plumage at rest except a white line that extends from bill down sides of neck to upper flanks
  • In flight shows pale bases to primaries on upperwing and entirely white underwing covert
Adult male
  • Red forehead
  • Red malar area
Adult female
  • Black forehead
  • Black malar stripe

(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)

Pileated Woodpecker Breeding Bird Survey Map, 2011-2015

Pileated Woodpecker Breeding Map

(Image credit: USGS)

Range of Pileated Woodpecker in New England

The pileated woodpecker is found year round throughout New England, with the exception of the coast of Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.

Pileated Woodpecker Christmas Bird Count Map

Historical CBC Map from USGS