Monday, March 4, 2013

Pileated Woodpeckers--A Family of Four

Winter is the most wonderful time to see woodpeckers.
The limbs are still bare of leaves and you can not only see the woodpeckers more easily but you can see the trunks of the old growth trees and the places where they have been foraging over time.  All those cracks and chips, loosened bark, chiseled holes, as they forage for their favorite food--carpenter ants.

In the above images and the next two below, you see the male of the pileated woodpecker family that visited my yard yesterday.  I was lured out the door not only by the familiar pileated call but by the whimpering sounds that often accompany two woodpeckers in a family, either a male with his mate or an adult with off-spring.  In this case it was both!

It is truly a fun surprise when you step out the door expecting a search, and instead, there are pileated woodpeckers all around you!  Two off-spring of the past nesting season accompanied their parents and were foraging near each other.  It took a minute of orienting to the direction of sounds compared to the two I visually located to realize that I had four woodpeckers, two to the west of where I stood, and two to the east.  They are busy birds.  By the time you've gotten into a good position to see one of them, they've decided to move to a different tree. Below you see the young female. She was distinguishable because her newly forming crest was still a bit bare in the back.  Don't you just love that look!
And below is her handsome brother with dark, fresh plumage that is striking.    

Pileated woodpeckers begin nesting in early April and hatch off-spring from mid April to the end of May in Tennessee.  Little is known about how long the young stay with their parents after fledging.  These juveniles would be approximately 9-10 months old in age. I observed the season's family together as late as March 21st in 2012.  In that observation there was one female off-spring with the adults (see link below) and courtship behavior had already begun.  Below you see the female adult.
And another view of the young female below.
She lingered longer than the rest of the family finding a comfortable branch for preening.  I ran out of battery power, went back into the house to get a fresh camera battery and came back to find her still relaxing on the same branch with her feathers fluffed.

A very satisfying visit!

Click here to see last year's family visit in March 2012 and another fun encounter in May 2009.

Visit Cornell for more information on the Pileated Woodpecker


  1. Oh how I love the Pileated's! Great pics you got!

    I had a close encounter last fall with one, and was within a couple of feet snapping videos and photos with my iPhone. So thrilling! I've had a parent and baby visit before too, and just love the 'hairdo' on the young ones! Lil' Punk rockers they remind me of.

    ~ Sherrie (Bird Lady)

    I blogged about my Pileated Woodpecker encounter here...

  2. Great pictures! Thanks for sharing.

  3. You were very lucky to get to see that many together. They are such large beautiful birds with their red heads.

  4. Excellent and yes, it is marvelous to step out and to be able to snag such wonderful images of these Pileated Woodpeckers. I really enjoy them here too~

  5. Many beautiful images of the Pileated, Vickie!

  6. Vickie your photos are fantastic! Pileated woodpeckers have to be my favorite bird; so unusual!

    Love your blog, your artwork, and the knowledge you share with us!


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