PILEATED WOODPECKER – (Dryocopus pileatus)
The Pileated Woodpecker is mostly black, with a red crest and two white stripes on each side of the face extending from the bill down to the shoulders. The male also has a red stripe on the cheek. The bill and legs are dark grey. It is a fairly large woodpecker, at around 45 cm (18 in.) long. Part of the under wing is white and very visible in flight.
The pileated woodpecker needs mature forests with decaying trees and a good source of its favorite food, carpenter ants, and wood-boring beetles. It can also eat some berries.
Pileated woodpeckers bore rectangular holes in trees (with the larger side vertical), which can be quite large, so this helps in identification. Their nests have more than one entrance, and they don’t use a nest more than once. This provides ‘homes’ for many other species of birds or squirrels. This species is also known to use nest boxes built for them.
One of the calls of the pileated woodpecker is quite similar to that of the Northern Flicker. Its drumming however is in a deeper range.
NOTES: As for many other woodpeckers, the pileated woodpecker has two forward and two backward toes, which allows better grip when climbing vertically on tree trunks. In addition, their tail feathers have stiff ends to provide more support.
Drumming: How can a bird sustain such ‘head-banging’ without having brain damage? There is a study trying to answer that question. Researchers found that a woodpecker can peck millions of times in their lifetime without any apparent brain damage. Yet, the acceleration force (Gs) of their pecking is in the 1,300 range. Compare this with a force of only 80 Gs sustained by a human, which will result in a brain concussion!
Although the pileated woodpecker breeds on PEI and is a year-round resident, its occurrence is rare on the island. Its range covers most of Canada to the tree line except the Prairies and Newfoundland, and the eastern half and along the west coast of the United States.
Conservation: numbers of the pileated woodpecker appear stable, and it helps that the species is able to adapt to human civilization. What attracts this bird is keeping standing dead trees and old logs on the forest floor.