How to Find Pileated Woodpecker

How to Find Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker Habitat (Where to look)

  • Mature forest with high numbers of tall, standing, dead trees and decomposing logs

    • Less commonly found in younger forest and open wooded areas - including backyards

    • Forest habitat can be deciduous, coniferous, and mixed

    • Tall, standing, dead trees are a habitat requirement

  • Stay on territory year-round

  • Breed in interior of forest but will forage in trees along forest edge

Pileated Woodpecker are usually seen on dead trees

Pileated Woodpecker are usually seen on dead trees

Pileated Woodpecker Behavior (What to look for)

  • will often peck and hammer at dead trees, stumps, and fallen logs for long periods of time - knocking off chips of wood and bark in the process

  • seek out decomposing wood because they house large numbers of ants and insect larvae

  • create large, deep, rectangular nesting cavities in tall, dead, standing trees

  • Pileated Woodpecker calls and drumming sounds are loud and distinctive - usually they are the first indication that a Pileated Woodpecker is in the vicinity

  • may use a nesting box

  • sometimes visit bird feeders that offer suet

  • diet also consists of wild berries - Virginia Creeper and Sassafras are notable favorites

  • like many species, Pileated Woodpecker are larger in size in the the north than they are in the south

  • appear to excavate and use a new cavity each year - which is good news for smaller bird species like the Eastern Bluebird, who recycle Pileated cavities for their nesting purposes

  • easily flushed

  • forage at all levels - from chipping away at a tree stump on the ground, to probing at the very top of tall trees

Pileated Woodpecker excavating rectangular hole in dead, standing tree

Pileated Woodpecker excavating rectangular hole in dead, standing tree

Note the size and rectangular shape of the cavities the Pileated Woodpecker has left on this dead tree

Note the size and rectangular shape of the cavities the Pileated Woodpecker has left on this dead tree

Pileated Woodpecker on ground, chipping at decomposing tree stump

Pileated Woodpecker on ground, chipping at decomposing tree stump

Notes from Anonymous Birder(s)

“Easier to find in winter, when there aren’t any leaves on the trees”

“Distinctive calls and drumming sounds are key to locating”

“may just be my experience… but seem more tame in the south”

“will come out of the woods to visit old tree stumps located close to the house”

Pileated Woodpecker are often easiest to spot in winter, when there no leaves on the trees

Pileated Woodpecker are often easiest to spot in winter, when there no leaves on the trees

Indicator Species

Scarlet Tanager, Summer Tanager, Yellow Throated Vireo, Northern Flicker

Good Luck!

Pileated Woodpecker on tree