Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker, California

Pileated Woodpecker, California

They have a piercing, raucous call, and when they hammer into a tree it is so loud that sometimes it echoes.  When you’re in the presence of this majestic bird, you know it.  The largest woodpecker in North America, the pileated woodpecker is 16-19 inches long with a wingspan of 30 inches.


Hylatomus pileatus can be found all across the eastern United States, parts of the Pacific Coastal states, and in parts of Canada.  In previous centuries this species experienced a sharp decline when the eastern forests were cleared.  Fortunately, it has had a comeback.


In flight they remind me of a pterodactyl with the big head on a narrow neck and the broad, hulking wings carrying it boldly across the sky.  Birds are sometimes referred to as feathered dinosaurs, and in my opinion there is no living bird in North America more reminiscent of this than the pileated woodpecker.


Yesterday I was in the Home Depot parking lot and my ears perked up because I thought I heard the distinctive kek-kek-kek of the pileated.  It turned out to be a diesel Mercedes in need of repair, but it made me smile all the same.


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander


44 thoughts on “Pileated Woodpecker

  1. We had them in the woods near my previous home. I’d hear them, but only spotted one just before I moved. Then I caught one pecking away at an apple in the neighbor’s tree at the current house. Even managed a picture. Not a good one because the lighting was so wrong, but thrilling none the less! 🙂

  2. We have daily visits from a Pileated Woodpecker. On rare occasions I have seen two of them at once- a male and female at our suet blocks. Being surrounded by woods on three sides certainly helps. And yes, they do look like dinosaur descendents!

    • Oh what fortune abounds when you receive daily visits from a Pileated. I’m glad you, too, think they look like dinosaurs. Thanks so much for your delightful comment cj. 😀

  3. I’ve seen them and heard them many times but I’ve never had a chance to shoot a picture of them. Thanks for the post Jet. 🙂

    • They certainly are tricky to photograph because they’re always moving: they circle the tree, dig holes, fly about and then disappear. Glad you enjoyed the post, HJ, and I appreciate your frequent visits and comments, my friend. 😀

  4. Great info, Jet, about one one of my favorite woodpeckers. I hear them often (they sound like a jackhammer to me), but rarely get to see them in action. I really like the photo too, because it shows the bird near ground level, most of the time I have seen one, it has been high in the trees and the perspective tended to distort the bird’s features.

    • Sounding like a jackhammer is a good way to describe it, Mike. I, too, usually see them up high and in a tree, so this was a perspective I liked too. Once I watched one digging into a large downed tree trunk and a big fat grub came out in his bill. Amazing bird! Thanks so much for your visit and comment, Mike. 😀

  5. Jet I can hardly believe how big he is! I had no idea woodpeckers could be so large. I loved your humor at the familiarity of the ‘pecking’ albeit the infamous Mercedes woodpecker. 🙂

    • I am happy I could bring the pileated into your view today, Lucy, and am really glad you enjoyed it. You TOO have a lovely weekend, and as always, thanks so much for your visit and comment. 😀

  6. How nice to see and almost hear one of my favourite birds dear Jet ! Athena has perfectly framed it amongst the barren branches,which leave enough space for him to show off his/her beauty,and you have so vividly described it that I could almost hear it pecking … Love its scientific Greek name,Hylatomus = ὑλοτομος = woodcutter=lumberjack ~ He is a self-taught Artist too,an amazing wood-engraver!Thanks for the always captivating info and for the laugh I got with the Mercedes kek-kek-kek … Here is to a wonderful Friday & a splendid weekend 🙂 ღ ღ ღ

    • Oh dear Doda, It fills me with joy to receive your Greek characters and translations, and what an appropriate name for the pileated woodpecker. I am glad you enjoyed the post and got a chuckle out of the last line too. I had the post pre-written with a different ending, and then had that experience in the parking lot and changed the ending. I send you my best wishes for a great weekend, which in your part of the world has already begun. My best to you 😀 😀

      • And,there was such a lovely and funny twist … Why didn’t you leave the ending you had and add this paragraph after it … I bet,it was interesting too.Have a peaceful and creative new week dearest friend Jet 🙂 xxx

      • Great to get your comment, Doda. I’m glad you found the ending to have a lovely and funny twist. You know writers, always editing. I hope you, too, have a wonderful new week, my dear friend. 😀

    • There are many lovely birds in the tropics, but you’re right, there are no pileateds where you live. I’m delighted the photo and post could fill in the gap. Many thanks RH! 😀

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