Pileated Woodpeckers

Around the Nesting Hole
Part I


The Pileated Woodpecker at 16 to 19 inches long, is the second largest woodpecker in North America. Only the newly rediscovered Ivory-billed Woodpecker is larger.  The Pileated Woodpecker can be found throughout eastern North America south of the boreal forest and east and north of the open prairies and arid Southwest. Carpenter ants are the primary food of this woodpecker. For this reason they prefer to nest in streamside forests where the higher humidity promotes decay and insect populations.

The nesting hole is roughly triangular in shape and quite large. It is commonly found between 15 and 80 ft above the ground.

The Pileated Woodpecker family depicted in this photo essay, occupied the upper hole in the poplar tree shown here. This hole was approximately 30 ft above the ground.

Fifteen days after birth, the young are able to peer out from the nesting hole as they await the arrival of their parents and a meal of regurgitated ants.

The young can be quite vocal and often call to the parents as they sense their approach. Pileated Woodpecker Call.

These two young males were very close to fledging and often extended their bodies far out of the hole when they sensed the arrival of a parent.

The adult Pileated Woodpecker is characterized by its long neck and red crest. Both sexes exhibit the red crest. However, the red of the male's crest extends from the base of the bill to the rear of the head. Only the rear half of the female's crest is red.  Males also have a red moustache spot.

At this stage of their growth the young woodpeckers can be very aggressive in their desire to be fed. The adult must approach carefully to avoid being injured.

The adult feeds the young by inserting its bill full length into its throat  and vigorously regurgitating the meal of carpenter ants.  It was observed that only one of the young was fed during each visit by an adult. The  male and female will take turns feeding the young. They will return to the nesting hole every 30 to 40 minutes from sunrise to sunset.

The young are very alert and are constantly on the look out for the returning parent and the next meal.

The arrival of the female Pileated Woodpecker is heralded by much vocalization by the young.

Two days after this series of images was made, both young males left the nest . They will spend the summer with their parents learning to fend for themselves.

It is very possible that at this time next year the adult Pileated Woodpeckers will nest again in this area, possibly in the same tree.


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