On Pileated Woodpeckers

As birds go, there’s no better song than that of the pileated woodpecker calling out to its mate.  For the northeast, this is as exotic a bird call as we’re going to get.  These birds are huge, approaching 20 inches in height.  They feed on ants and beetle larvae in deciduous trees.  Often you hear them well before you see them, either from their call or from the reverberating rap of their beaks pulverizing a tree in search of a meal.

Pileated woodpeckers don’t migrate and make the most of the territory they stake out for themselves.  I’ve seen them year round, but spring right before the trees leaf out seems to be when they’re most active.  They’re shy birds, and it’s hard to get a good picture it you’re not sneaky about it.  I made a point of being sneaky for this picture.

I’m not sure what the population of pileated woodpeckers is in North America, but I’m glad to live in a town that sustains these magnificent birds.  As much as I hate the encroaching development that’s seemingly closing in on us, there are still large enough tracts of woodland for wildlife to thrive here.  Looking at the town next door, with strip malls and 55+ housing developments quickly replacing stands of trees that have been there for decades, I wonder how long it will be before vinyl siding crowds out the tree bark.  So here’s a vote for conservation, and for woodpeckers.