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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Woody Woodpecker?

All you have to do is listen to this bird to know where the inspiration for the cheeky cartoon character originated. We saw our first Pileated Woodpecker the first year we came to Florida, 2002. It was on a palm between the lake and the house.

We have only seen this bird a handful of times. Yesterday evening, while sitting by the lake and chatting with a neighbor, we heard the distinctive "laugh". In no time we spotted him on a dead orange tree two houses away. A convenient clump of palm hid me while I snapped a couple of pictures. How I wished for my Digital SLR (still in the shop being cleaned of sand and water) and my 300mm lens (gone forever). But, for a little purse Canon I didn't think the ELPH Powershot did a bad job.

According to "All About Birds" (Cornell University):

Nearly as large as a crow, the Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in most of North America. Its loud ringing calls and huge, rectangular excavations in dead trees announce its presence in forests across the continent.

Cool Facts
  • The Pileated Woodpecker digs characteristically rectangular holes in trees to find ants. These excavations can be so broad and deep that they can cause small trees to break in half.
  • A Pileated Woodpecker pair stays together on its territory all year round. It will defend the territory in all seasons, but will tolerate floaters during the winter.
  • The feeding excavations of a Pileated Woodpecker are so extensive that they often attract other birds. Other woodpeckers, as well as House Wrens, may come and feed there.
  • The Pileated Woodpecker prefers large trees for nesting. In young forests, it will use any large trees remaining from before the forest was cut. Because these trees are larger than the rest of the forest, they present a lightning hazard to the nesting birds.


  • Size: 40-49 cm (16-19 in)
  • Wingspan: 66-75 cm (26-30 in)
  • Weight: 250-350 g (8.83-12.36 ounces)
  • Large woodpecker.
  • Red crest on head.
  • Black body.
  • White in wings, at base of primaries, and underwing linings.
  • White conspicuous in flight; at rest shows only as small white spot at front of wing.
  • Black and white stripes on face.
  • White stripe extending from base of bill down neck.
  • White stripe above eye and below crown.
  • Throat white.
  • Bill thick and silvery gray.
  • Yellowish feathers over nostrils.
  • Legs and feet grayish black.
  • Eyes yellow.


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Gabby Faye
Michigan, United States
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