Bird of the Week: Pileated Woodpecker

With a wingspan of up to two and a half feet, the Pileated Woodpecker is by far the largest woodpecker in Texas. In fact, only the (possibly extinct) Ivory-billed Woodpecker rivals the Pileated for sheer size. Birds this big need equally big trees to live in– Pileated Woodpecker nests are large and often have multiple entrances. The act of excavating a nest is enough to cause smaller trees to break in half! A well-made nest can be a gift to other animals: owls, songbirds, and even raccoons will make use of abandoned roosts. Like other woodpeckers, the Pileated also excavates trees for food, especially wood-boring beetle larvae and carpenter ants. However, these birds are also more likely than smaller species to feed on the ground, foraging for grubs in lawns and dead leaves. Some will even frequent suet feeders, although their large size makes them somewhat ungainly visitors. Pileated Woodpeckers can be found anywhere trees grow large enough to accommodate them– in Central Texas, that means mostly along rivers and streams, where large trees like pecans and cottonwoods predominate.

Compiled by Owen Moorhead. Sources include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.
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