Pileated Woodpeckers


Last winter, when this photo was taken from our great room window, we were amazed to see this guy.  He’s supposedly shy.  Wary.  Needs lots of elbow room–something like 400 acres per bird.  Yipes. We felt  honored he trusted our suet. He soon became a regular visitor, late in the day, after the riff raff finch hordes departed.  He always preferred the suet feeder that allows woodpeckers to eat while getting some purchase by pressing their tail against the paddle just like they would against a tree.  You can tell he’s a him because of the red mustache.  Sometimes a female would visit the feeder (no red mustache, the same red hairdo), but they never came together.  Dryocopus Pileatus a/k/a Woody Woodpecker eats tons of bugs, primarily carpenter ants and woodboring beetle larvae.   He uses his powerful beak to excavate tree trunks and then uses his long barbed tongue and sticky spit to slurps up ants and larvae from their tunnels in the bark.  I don’t even want to think about what must be in that suet they like so much.

These birds are the largest woodpeckers in North America.  Except if you believe that the long-thought-to-be-extinct Ivory Billed Woodpecker has really been rediscovered in eastern Arkansas.  The Pileated is 15.7 to 19.3 inches long.  Think about that for a minute.  It’s as big as the biggest crows.  Its wingspan is 26 to 29 inches.   Pileateds have  a lovely call, something like chalk being pressed fast and too hard on a blackboard.  Their call does not resemble Woody’s famous “ha-ha-ha-HAA-ha.”  The sound of their pecking at trees is most impressive.  Maybe scientists should study how Pileated’s brains are insulated from such jackhammer shock forces.  They could probably save the brain functioning of more than a  few motorcyclists.

A few weeks ago, the Long Lake Suet Cafe was visited by mom, dad, and  “baby.”  We even watched the parents take a chunk of suet and feed it to “baby.”  Forgive the photo.  The light was dim.  The birds weren’t sitting still.  But triple wow what a sight!


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