Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest North American woodpecker with a length of up to twenty inches and wingspan of thirty inches.  They are non-migratory and are found in mature forests across North America with a broader range in the east than the west. Their diet is primarily ants which they extract from hollowed trees however they also readily eat suet, sunflower seeds, nuts & fruit.  Pileated Woodpeckers are known for the large rectangular holes they drill into trees with amazing speed and power. If you look closely at a Pileated designed hole you will notice that they round off the outer edges of the hole in order for the tree sap to run on the outside of the tree which wards off predators such as snakes.  The tree cavities they nest in often have many exit holes (up to sixteen) which provides multiple escape routes should a predator enter the nest (which is very possible due to the size of the holes created by a Pileated Woodpecker).  Pileated Woodpeckers are quite territorial and each monogamous pair require a large territory of up to forty acres, so its not often you see more than two adults at the same time.  It is estimated that the North American population of Pileated Woodpeckers is 930,000.  It is amazing we dont see them more often.

The Pileated Woodpecker in this post is an adult female and is the first and only Pileated Woodpecker I’ve ever photographed.  It was only in sight for about thirty seconds and only provided a nice profile for a second or two.  Unfortunately it was shot when it was very overcast, resulting in a blown out white sky.  Normally I would just delete a shot like that however as it was my first Pileated Woodpecker I just couldn’t do it!  In an attempt to salvage the shot so I could post it here, I changed the sky in the background.  This brings up a whole other ‘issue’ that is much talked about in nature photography circles, namely how much post processing is acceptable?  The views on this topic are many and varied so if you would like to express an opinion regarding image manipulation please click here to go to the discussion section of my Facebook page.

Pileated Woodpecker 01

Other woodpecker images can be seen by clicking here


  1. Scott,

    Nice shot for a 30 second second window. I lived in MD on 5 wooded acres and had a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers I saw and heard regularly. I was super focused, more like obsessed with migrating warblers, so I never photographed the Pileateds…regretfully now.
    I am ok with the manipulation, think about darkroom manipulation in the pre-digital days. Photographers have always found ways to improve their work.

    Dian Miller

    • Hi Dian,

      I sure hope you get a chance to photograph a Pileated again soon. We have them visit our cottage from time to time however I’m the only one the family not to see one there yet (only the tell tale holes). They must high on everyone’s nemesis list 🙂 Thanks for dropping by me site and I also enjoyed the Orioles Nest very much.



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