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