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The Ivory Bill·Birds·Cavity Makers

Pileated Woodpeckers, Dryocopus pileatus

Pileated woodpeckers perched on tree trunks in a forest

Pileated Woodpeckers breed in mature forests across North America, in Canada, south eastern United States, and parts of the Pacific Northwest from late April to early July. They are commonly found in dense, mature forests with large trees, which are typically mixed or deciduous woodlands.

They forage on standing dead trees, fallen logs, and large live trees, for ants, beetle larvae, termites, and other insects. They may also feed on wild fruits and nuts such as dogwood berries, elderberries, and acorns.

Pileated Woodpeckers have powerful beaks and strong neck muscles that enable them to excavate deep into wood, creating rectangular holes to access insect larvae. They use their long, barbed tongues to extract insects from deep crevices.

Courtship involves loud drumming, calling, and display flights. Males and females engage in mutual drumming on resonant surfaces and chase each other around trees and through the forest.

Both males and females excavate nesting cavities in large dead or dying trees, favoring species like pines, oaks, and maples, typically at heights ranging from 4 to 15 meters. No additional materials are used inside the cavity. They prefer forested habitats and are often found near water sources.

They rarely nest in birdhouses. Natural cavities in large trees are preferred. Birdhouses, if used, should have a minimum dimension of 24 inches in height, with a 4-inch diameter entrance hole, mounted on large trees in mature forests or wooded areas at heights of 4 to 15 meters. Pileated Woodpecker Birdhouse Plans

Egg laying occurs from May to June, with females laying 3 to 5 white eggs. Both parents share incubation duties for about 15 to 18 days. After hatching, adults feed chicks with regurgitated insects and fruits.

Chicks begin learning to forage by observing parents and pecking at wood surfaces. Vulnerabilities include predation by raptors and mammals and competition for nesting sites. As they develop, they become more adept at locating and extracting food.

Fledging occurs at around 24 to 28 days old. Continued adult guidance includes teaching fledglings to locate food sources and how to excavate effectively. Their diet evolves to include more solid food items such as insects and fruits.

Pileated Woodpeckers are generally non-migratory. They remain in their territories year-round, with some local movements to find food during winter months.

Wintering habitats include mature forests with ample dead wood and fruiting trees. During winter, they forage for insects, particularly ants and beetle larvae, as well as fruits and nuts.