Pileated Woodpecker,
Dryocopus pileatus

Facts and Information



Pileated woodpecker, San Juan Island, Washington.Another Washington State bird, the Pileated Woodpecker is a large bird (up to 19"), and prefers mature trees in heavily forested areas. As first growth forests dwindle, these birds have adapted themselves to life in second growth forests, as well as heavily wooded parks. They make nests in hollows of dead trees, and will dig further in, tunneling and excavating to create the nest space, sometimes taking as long as six weeks to finish building. They tend to make new nests each year, leaving the old nest as a home for other cavity-dwelling animals.

Pileated woodpecker, San Juan Island, Washington. Insects are their primary food, along with fruits, berries and nuts, easily found on San Juan Island. They will search for insects by ripping or digging into the bark of trees, methodically moving across the tree trunk and leaving behind a unique pattern of pock marks in straight columns and rows. When digging into the bark, they can also create 3 - 6" holes in trees, a telltale sign that they are in residence. The Pileated taps at tree bark with its beak, looking for insects. It can then drag out the bugs with its sticky tongue. The loud hammering sound made by this bird is often thought to be the sound made when their beak hits the tree in their search for food. Actually, though, the sound is their call both to attract mates and to establish territorial boundaries.

I often see one of these birds as I drive to work. It will quickly jump around to the back of the tree as I pass, not wanting to be seen but also not flying away, instead moving just out of view. That red head is impossible to miss!

Jump over to any of the other San Juan Island bird pages: American Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher, Common Raven, Coopers Hawk, Great Blue Heron, Double Crested Cormorant, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-winged Blackbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Sea Hawk, Yellow Rumped Warbler, Great Horned Owl, Wild Turkey, Trumpeter Swan.

Return to American Goldfinch from Pileated Woodpecker, OR
Return to Simply San Juan.


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