Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Guess Who's Back In Town Today




I heard loud pecking and rustling from across the street and there he was...rat-a-tating on a neighbor's tree! A Pileated Woodpecker or Dryocopus pileatus, the largest woodpecker in North America. Largest after the Ivory Billed Woodpecker.* (all photos enlarge)

The Pileated Woodpecker is the 747 of the woodpecker world. He's not quite as big as a crow, but at about 15 inches tall...he's big! You can't miss identifying this woodpecker when you see him! He's big and has a red crested head! He looks exactly as he does in the photo...black body, long tail, red crest on his head, white stripes on his neck and black and white stripes on his face. Females have a brown forehead and not the red that males sport! He has a marvelous call and drums to protect his territory and attract a life mate. Pileated Woodpeckers mate for life. They have the oddest hop as they move up and down the tree trunk...by the way...check out those claws!

In this photo he is either excavating a roost or going after bugs.
The photo is a bit blurry...it's all that digging in the tree!

The hole that he is digging is very characteristic of PWs; rectangular and deep. They dig deeply into the tree searching for carpenter ants. He will eat beetles, fruits and nuts, too, but they prefer carpenter ants. Ornithologists call the Pileated Woodpecker 'ecosystem engineers', because other birds and mammals depend upon the cavities of the Pileated Woodpecker for survival. The cavities provide nesting, housing and access to a food source. Since Mr and Mrs Pileated Woodpecker are non migratory birds...they dig an extensive roost and nesting site in large trees to provide shelter year round. The nests or roosts can be up to 2 foot in diameter with several doors.

Mr and Mrs are large birds, but still have to protect themselves and their offspring from predators like hawks, weasels, owls, snakes and even squirrels. Humans do pose some problems for these wonderful and shy birds. Some loss of habitat...when old growth trees are lost or dead trees are removed. But many woodpeckers are are actually killed by cars...either they fly in front of them or they are hit while searching for food on the side of the road.

Oddly enough, they are also killed by lightening striking the tall trees where they prefer to roost. This may explain where my pair disappeared. Our tallest and oldest oak tree was struck by lightening several years ago...about the time Mr and Mrs Pileated disappeared.

I hope that Pileated Woodpeckers are back in the neighborhood. I wish they would move into the oak tree...it's still there, move in ready. A condo on the top floor with a nice view and lots of good restaurants near by.

Pileated woodpeckers make me smile.

I've missed them in the garden.


Gail

Meems (HoeandShovel) has a post on her Pileated Woodpeckers. Tina and Skeeter (In The Garden) also have a post.If any other bloggers have posts let me know and I can link to you, too.

Now for something completely silly. Do you remember Woody Woodpecker? Woody is a cartoon Pileated Woodpecker and if you have a yen for an old cartoon memory go here.


*There is still hope that the Ivory Billed Woodpecker is alive in Louisiana.

62 comments:

  1. He's a neat woodpecker! We saw a huge one in the Smokies while we were camping a few years ago. I'm used to seeing the small ones, the pileated woodpeckers are a big contrast!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Gail,Love your photos and your information today!

    We have Pileated's year round but I never tire of hearing them which is sometimes easier than seeing them. They are beautiful (and large) creatures.
    Meems @Hoe&Shovel

    ReplyDelete
  3. meems,

    I tried to search your archives...because I thought you had a photo and post about them and I wanted to link to you. They are wonderful birds aren't they?

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dave,

    So cool a bird...and noisy enough to hear across the street. We have lots of the little guys, too....they are all great birds...except for the holes in my carport when they went after the carpenter bees!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  5. You ceratinly know a lot about Pileated Woodpeckers. And now, so do I! Thanks for a very informative post. I've only seen one or two ever and was awe struck by them. I hope you get some to come back to your tree. You would make them an excellent neighbor.

    ReplyDelete
  6. beckie,

    I did look them up to find their 'real name' and discovered even more about them. They are just so very interesting and they do bob up and down as they climb the tree trunk!

    If we're lucky they will be around...and visit the tree often.

    Did you listen to the Woody the Woodpecker video? I am curious if anyone does.

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  7. I love these guys and it is too bad they are killed by lightening. Yes, I remember Woody Woodpecker.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Tina,

    Woody was still on when you were a kid! I never thought about birds or other creatures being killed by lightening strikes to their trees....but they do.

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  9. How lucky you are to have a Pileated Woodpecker so near. I would be exstatic if they were in or near our garden.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Good Morning Gail,
    You are right (what a good memory) I have posted some photos of the Pileated a couple of times. Here's one of the links if you'd like to go back and view them...

    http://hoeandshovel.blogspot.com/2008/02/distracted-by-red-head.html

    Funny, I'm sitting on my back porch right now with a red-bellied making its very cheery chirpy music... I just love to hear all the woodpecker's sounds and watch them at work - like you said they are making homes for the little birdies.

    Have a great day- I'm heading out to do some trimming in the 'back 40'
    Meems @Hoe&Shovel

    ReplyDelete
  11. Lisa,

    I am! I do wish they would move into your neighborhood!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  12. Once again, I'm impressed by what you're able to capture on film (ok, I guess on memory chip . . .) Anyway, I know how shy pileateds are, so those photos are quite good! One of the strange benefits of the hurricane (and the ice storm years before) is that the fallen trees and woodpiles make the property a haven for woodpeckers--we have pileateds, downies, flickers, and a red-headed one that feeds at our bird feeder (and chases all the other birds away). We had pileateds nest one year in a tree right over the driveway--the youngsters make quite a racket. Loved the photos, Gail--and yes, I remember Woody Woodpecker.

    ReplyDelete
  13. How exciting to see such a woodpecker in your yard, Gail! This guy is awesome. Just the other day while I was waiting to get my car fixed the manager was chatting with me a little, and somehow we started talking about gardening. He mentioned a friend of his who had two "giant" woodpeckers in his yard. The description he gave of them sounded very much like these pileated woodpeckers.

    I didn't listen to the Woody Woodpecker audio, but I didn't need to. Now, thanks to you, I have that signature Woody call going through my head:)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks for dropping by my blog.....I love woodpeckers and we get a lot here as we are surrounded by oaks....I love your photographs and hope that your woodies soon move into your oak....

    It is a shame when people remove old trees....mine stay, wonderful sourch of food for wildlife and a hotel for birds......

    ReplyDelete
  15. We have them in the woods behind us and see them now and then. They come out of the woods and are seen more frequently at the end of summer when the dogwood seeds are ready. Everything it seems loves the dogwood seeds. You can always hear their jungle like call even if you cannot see them.

    ReplyDelete
  16. meems,

    I love listening to the birds in the yard...and porches are perfect for sitting and enjoying their chatter.

    Thanks for the post info, I linked to it.

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  17. cosmo,

    One of the many things I like about you is your ability to at look that horrific hurricane and find the gifts.
    ...and it appears that the woodpeckers are loving them, too. I leave rotten limbs and tree trunks if they are far enough away not to cause damage when they fall...there was the incident when the woodpecker tree fell just missed a car in the driveway!

    Is there still a lot of evidence of the hurricane in your area?

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  18. Rose,

    I am so sorry about the song, really, even though I am laughing...it's going around mine right now, too.

    They are giants compared to the little Downy Woodpeckers that live in my garden. I hope he will be out and about more...he may have stopped by the tree to look for carpenter ants....I can see it is rotten and they may be inside the tree.

    They are shy, maybe they are in your neighborhood, too.


    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  19. mother nature,

    It is a jungle like call isn't it! I wonder if it was what they played in old Tarzan movies to make us think they were shooting in the jungle and not in a sound stage!

    I am going to check and see who is hanging around the dogwoods...thanks for the headsup!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  20. cheryl,

    I don't like to cut the old trees down, I do limb some trees but the big lightening struck tree is way back there for what ever wild life needs it.

    I watch neighbors remove trees so they can have grass...I don't get it but I don't care about grass! It just doesn't make sense with global warming to add more grass and increase watering and mowing!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  21. You are so lucky. I have never seen one in my area altho I believe I heard one calling from the woods last year. Very distinctive call--sounds like something from an old Tarzan movie:) Thank you for providing some excitement in my otherwise dull morning.
    Marnie

    ReplyDelete
  22. Marnie,

    Glad I could help...it is raining here and the thunder and lightening remind me of years past when summer thunderstorms were normal. Love the rain but when it falls in torrents it sure smashes flowers! Maybe they are around your place and just hiding, they are very shy!

    gail

    ReplyDelete
  23. Gail, I always learn something new and interesting from you! I hope the Pileated Woodies will settle down in your neighborhood. That means more viewing pleasure for you and your readers!

    ReplyDelete
  24. I had a Posting with Tina at “In the Garden” about birdbaths and slipped in a Pileated Woodpecker in our birdbath. I had it labeled Birdbaths but have since added woodpecker! Duh, on my part…

    Our female Pileated Does have a red head. She does not have the red streak by the beak on her chin though. With our drought, we have seen them in the birdbath for the first time in our 7 years of living here. They have been residents in our woods all along though, just never seen them at the bath until now. I saw 3 at one time a few years ago. That was spectacular to say the least…

    We have the Hairy, Downey, Red Belly, Flicker, Pileated, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker all in our yard. We have suet cages for them to munch on peanut butter treats! All but the Pileated go to the suet but we hope they will discover the high protein treats some day...

    I loved the Cartoon! When a teenager at a county fair, my boyfriend won me a 4 foot tall stuffed Wile E Coyote! I lost him in the break-up. I wonder if he still has the dude? LOL… Of course I listened…

    I dont know how to link on comments but here is the address so you can copy and paste to see our Pileated.

    http://tinaramsey.blogspot.com/2008/06/garden-birdbath-issues.html

    ReplyDelete
  25. What a beautiful woodpecker. I've never actually seen any in real life, but I've always wanted to watch them dig into the trees. There is something cute and comfy about the trees that they make their home. All I see are robins and the regular gray or dark colored birds.

    ReplyDelete
  26. What a wonderful post, Gail! I would never have thought about lightning strikes being a problem for woodpeckers, but that makes perfect sense... and your photos are great, by the way. We have red-headed woodpeckers near where I work, but I don't often see them in our urban jungle of sorts here. :)

    ReplyDelete
  27. CindyMCOK, I hope they do, too...then I can watch them without worrying about traffic,unfortunately our street is getting busier these days!

    Thank you, giving information that others find interesting and/or helpful is not a bad outcome from having a blog!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  28. skeeter,

    I missed that post, we were just returning from our beach trip and I didn't check in to see blogs until a few days later... great photos and it must have been very hot and dry...they rarely visit water fountains.

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  29. Gail you did this one proud with your write up. I enjoyed it. NC is trying to plant more pines and give them their favorite nesting place. Many of our pines have been destroyed by hurricanes.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Gail, I found your blog when I first started reading them several months ago. You have an enormous amount of comments so just have not posted. Built a smaller home in Nashville and am in the process of having a minature of what I had in the country. I have always gardened. Oh how I miss my country home but this is closer to children and grandchildren.
    At my country home I remember how excited I became when I first spotted these woodpeckers They are a sight to behold.
    Your research and images are great.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Anna,

    I read that in order to protect their nests from snakes that they drill around the entrance and get the pine sap running! In the meantime are they able to entice them into fake pine tree nests? i have a sort of memory of that from a news story!

    Thank you Anna...you are a doll for saying such kind things...It is easy to write about the things we care about!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  32. Ernestine,

    I remember you! I am glad you commented and please know you are always welcome! How are you? We talk about moving from here and it would be hard...I love the acre of land we have and it would mean leaving my plants...what I am trying to say, is that I think I understand a bit how you might feel.

    Thank you, I love the Pileated woodpecker and think they are enormously interesting and worth learning about.

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  33. blackswamp girl,

    The lightening information was eye opening. We see bird's nests blown out of trees after a strong storm but never have I thought about a lightening strike killing the tree's residents.

    Thank you, I can't believe he didn't fly away...I was pretty close!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  34. Really nice post today - thanks for the great photos. I've been lucky to see one of these birds once, earlier this year. Unfortunately, it was very early and none of my photos came out. When I first heard him, I didn't see him. Then I noticed him on a stump where we sit a large terracotta saucer as a birdbath. He was pecking in the stump - and it's about 12 feet from our deck. They are magnificient.

    I didn't know about lightning strikes, either. Thanks for the great info.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Hi Gail,
    Another great post! We never see the PWPs in town here, but I know they're out in the country, hanging out with all the cool birds at Fernymoss' parents' country property.

    We sometimes see the redheads, the downies and lots of Flickers, but they don't live in our garden. The flashiest we have is the pair of Cardinals we have in the Spruce in back. We're honored they like our place enough to stay! The goldfinches don't roost here, but close by, and they're around when the coneflowers dry up and go to seed ... I hope I can get some good pics/video this year!

    After what everyone else said about the Woody song, I refrained. When I was really little, my sister had a 45 of that song I played all the time, so it is graven in my brain. No offense, but I didn't want to bring that out of cold storage tonight! Maybe tomorrow.... lol

    ReplyDelete
  36. we too have these great creatures in our garden. i must take a photo of ours and share it. i am fasinated by them. we have found some great woodpecker blocks (like suet but much larger) that they love to eat, so it is a pleasure to watch them. thanks for sharing so much info on them.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Thanks for linking us Gail...
    They are a most unusual bird aren’t they? I feel fortunate to have them in our yard! One of my favorites but I have so many favorites in the bird community it is hard to pick just one but Pileated rates up there...

    ReplyDelete
  38. Woody Woodpecker? I haven't thought of him in years! Trip down memory lane in addition to some good info on this bird. My cousin had one pecking his house down. He was not pleased!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Hi Gail, always a learning experience with your posts. Great photos, you are becoming a regular nature spy. We have the big guys too, as well as the smaller ones in the large trees surrounding our property. We can hear that hyena cry as they fly from tree to tree. Woody Woodpecker was a regular on the cartoon lineup on Saturday mornings, what a mischief maker he was! HA. So glad about the rain.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Good morning Gail, beautiful shots of the woodpecker! We have downy woodpeckers all over around here. They're such pretty little birds. I've only seen a pileated woodpecker here a few times.

    My dad had a movie camera and projector when we were kids. He took a lot of home movies, and also had a bunch of cartoons. We looked forward to movie night, and Woody Woodpecker was my favorite, along with Jack in the Beanstalk and Mickey Mouse.

    The movies were from the early 1950's. Both Woody and Mickey looked a lot different than they did in later versions of themselves. The video you linked to was very nostalgic, since that's what he looked like in those old movies we had.

    ReplyDelete
  41. It just hit me! I am confused; I will blame it on sniffing bleach while cleaning out the birdbaths! Lol. Coyote was after the Roadrunner not Woody! Wonder who else caught that mistake? Too funny how things pop in my mind... ROFLOL

    ReplyDelete
  42. Dee/reddirtramblingsJuly 27, 2008 at 11:31 AM

    I love all of the woodpeckers. I don't hear them much except in spring. We left a dead tree so they would have a place to find even more insects. Thanks for sharing Gail.~~Dee

    ReplyDelete
  43. Kim,

    At first I thought he was visiting your water saucer and that I understand is rare...isn't it interesting thst he was hunting for food right there near the ground!

    I never have my camera with me for those close encounters with nature! I try to remember to carry it around but i don't!


    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  44. dee,

    I left a dead tree nearby for woodpeckers and they used it all the time...then one day I heard a big thump ran outside and the tree had fallen on the driveway...right where a car had been parked 15 minutes earlier...now I think about that when I leave a stump or a taller decayed tree, but I do leave stumps for the birds. It's important that we all do that if we can...you have the property for it. I bet bird watching is great where you live?

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  45. skeeter,

    Everyone was running away from getting the Woody hahahahaa stuck in their head that they didn't notice!

    It's so much fun to have birds visit a garden...recently a hawk has been hanging around the oak tree in the way back!


    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  46. Frances,

    I think we both live close to wooded areas with lots of trees so we are fortunate to get these guys as regulars to the garden! I wish I had thought to video him!

    Gail,
    nature spy

    ReplyDelete
  47. garden girl,

    I like the stories you tell about your dad! We have thought about renting a big projector and hanging a screen on the driveway for a drivein night...we could show woody cartoons!

    I was so glad to see the pileated guy and hope it signals a return of them to the yard. Now that i see the hawk is visiting the big dead oak...I wonder if that will happen!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  48. layanee,

    Too bad about the pecking. The only time any woodpecker pecked on my house there were carpenter ants or carpenter bees. Maybe he has one of them in the wood.

    Woody was a funny bird and so different from the transformers my kid watched! I guess he was our generation.

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  49. marmee,

    Where did you get the suet for woodpeckers? I will look for it at one of the bird shops. That is a good piece of info to have...that woodpeckers will visit a favorite suet! Thanks. We have a good shop nearby, The Woodthrush. I like them they are not a chain.

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  50. ivg,

    Thank you...I love this bird, really, maybe it was the early imprinting from Woody Woodpecker cartoons. Boy am I lucky Alvin and the Chipmunks didn't imprint!

    I think Cardinals are cool and it isn't just because I grew up in St Louis either! They are a welcome sight at the feeder during winter. Don't you think they look marvelous against snow? We used to get one or two good snows...before climate change/global warming!

    The little birds...finches. chicadees and the titmouse are all wonderful visitors here. What little birds visit Iowa?

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  51. Gail, years ago our family camped for a week in northern Alabama. It was there we saw our first pileated woodpecker! It was a great experience. :-) Thanks for the informative post.

    ReplyDelete
  52. I was scared witless one day when I heard this rat a tat sound on the little pottery building I was in. I ran outside and couldn't find anything but the minute I went back inside, it started again. It took me forever to catch him at it, and I never saw him after that first Summer. It wasn't the building but a tree up against the building so I guess he was after the bugs.

    ReplyDelete
  53. shady,

    They are impressive...I understand they really like pine trees to nest in and Alabama has some pine trees! Many of ours in the neighborhood died in last years drought.

    You're welcome!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  54. eve,

    He was playing hide and seek with you!
    They have a large territory so he must be nesting some other place! Maybe he'll show himself again. I haven't seen my pileated woodpecker since the other day.

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  55. What a magnificent woodpecker. Are they endangered at all? I do remember reading there may have been an ivory billed sighting but even if there are one or two left, their future is bleak. I hope the pileated return to nest in your oak. I have the hairy & downey woodpeckers in my yard along with flickers. I see them mostly during the winter months but then again, there are not a lot of trees in my area. Great post Gail!

    ReplyDelete
  56. This post was perfectly delightful. He's such a handsome fellow. He sports his red cap nicely. Our local forest service is planting lots of pine trees for the woodpeckers who live in the hurricane destroyed areas. I don't remember what hurricane cause NC has lots of them.

    ReplyDelete
  57. kathleen,

    I don't think they are endangered, but very shy and so we don't see them. We also have the little woodpeckers and they are adorable even when they peck on my house! They do seem to show up in the winter...maybe their red heads and black and white feathers just pop then.

    Thank you and I am glad you commented and visited!

    gail

    ReplyDelete
  58. Shady,

    How much fun was that! They are great birds and I wish they would show themselves more!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  59. anna,

    Thank you...I am enjoying your series on BR and NC.

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  60. We have many woodpeckers here in Arizona, but none this pretty! I suppose it doesn't matter what they look like, they all work the same!
    Aiyana

    ReplyDelete
  61. aiyana,

    They are incredible birds...now I am curious and will have to look up Arizona birds! The internet is so much fun! Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  62. Gail,
    I, too, have pileated woodpeckers that frequent my yard. Often they sharpen their bills on the top of the metal telephone pole on our corner. I was interested in your reference to ivory billed woodpeckers in Louisiana. I grew up in a small southeast Texas town close to the LA line. The area where we lived was on the edge of the "Big Thicket" of Texas, a large area of very dense swampy forest that covers a large part of southeast Texas. There was an old newspaperman/environmentalist there, Archer Fullingim, who spent many hours exploring the thicket. In the late '60's he found and photographed the ivory billed woodpecker living there. Mr. Fullingim died a number of years ago, and I don't know if the woodpecker has been spotted there recently, but there are those who still search.

    ReplyDelete

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails