Category   Birds of BC: Pileated Woodpecker
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Pileated Woodpecker
Dryocopus pileatus

From the woods comes a call, or, rather, a maniacal laugh, that carries through the forest cover. Then, a crow-sized bird appears, black and white wings carrying the bird along on carefully placed beats. It flies to the base of an old Douglas-fir stump, looks left and right, and then sets to work. A dark bill hacks away at the thick bark, tossing aside hefty chunks in the process.It is a Pileated Woodpecker, with the almost certain extinction of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, now the largest woodpecker in North America.

This bird is a male, with flaming red crest, and an additional red moustache stripe. His mate looks similar, but with no moustache (thankfully) and less red in her crest.

Pileated Woodpeckers need large trees in which to excavate the cavities they use for roosting and nesting. They do not seem to require heavy forest, however, and do quite well in established residential areas, so long as there are wooded patches with big trees. Wildlife trees (dead or dying trees) are especially important.

Many woodpecker species can be recognized by their territorial drumming, and the Pileated is one. Its drumming is loud, not surprisingly, but it also starts quickly, and then trails off at the end, in a distinctive pattern.

This is a species that has started many observers on the birding path, and it is in some ways an indicator species of the health of our urban environment.

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