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
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.
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
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.