Birdhouses 101 - Pileated Woodpecker



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Pileated Woodpecker

About The Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated WoodpeckerDescription
Easily recognizable by its size and distinctive coloring, the Pileated Woodpecker measures in at 40-49 cm (16-19 in), with a wingspan of 66-75 cm (26-30 in) and a weight of 250-350 grams. The Pileated Woodpecker is nearly as large as a crow. It has a mostly black body with a large red crest on the head. It has some white stripes on its body, running from the face down to the neck. Its wings are also mostly black with some white linings. Its throat has some white as well.

The Pileated Woodpecker has a thick silver-gray bill which it uses to make rectangular holes in trees. Its eyes are yellow while its legs and feet are grayish black. Male and female birds are similar in appearance. The male however, has some red stripes in the face while the female has none. Juvenile birds differ from the adults in that the have brown eyes and shorter crests.

Pileated Woodpecker Nesting Preferences

Pileated Woodpeckers nest in cavities in trees. They prefer to excavate new nest holes each year in a dead tree or branch. Digging up a nest hole can take up to six weeks.


The nest of the Pileated Woodpecker is basically the cavity they have created. Except for some woodchips, the nest remains unlined. These woodchips come from the dead tree or branch they made the hole in.

Building a Birdhouse For The Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated WoodpeckerThe Baltimore Bird Club recommends the following dimensions for a Pileated Woodpecker birdhouse. The floor area should be 8” x 8” while the height of the birdhouse should be around 16-24 inches. The entrance hole should be 3-4 inches in diameter. It should be places around 12-20 inches from the floor. The whole birdhouse should be place from 15-25 feet above the ground, preferably in a large tree as this is what Pileated Woodpeckers prefer.

The Pileated Woodpecker Mating Habits

Pileated Woodpeckers mate for life. A pair stays together throughout the whole year. They are territorial and tend to stay in their established territory for long periods of time. During breeding season, the Pileated Woodpecker fiercely defends its territory. However, during the winter, it can tolerate a few “floaters” – birds who just pass by.

The Pileated Woodpecker Feeding Preferences

The fare of Pileated Woodpeckers consists mainly of insects. They eat ants and beetle larvae. However, they also eat fruits and nuts. To find their food, they make holes in trees and logs. They also strip off the bark to expose the ants underneath.

Interesting Pileated Woodpecker Facts

Pileated Woodpecker•The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest Woodpecker in North America.
•The roost of a Pileated Woodpecker usually has multiple entrance holes.
•The sound that a Pileated Woodpecker makes when boring a hole in a tree is so loud that it can be heard over long distances.
•Pileated Woodpeckers make very large holes in dead trees that sometimes the holes can cause a small tree to break in half!
•Pileated Woodpeckers have been observed to move their eggs which have fallen off the nest to another site. This is a rare habit with other birds.

Readers Comments


Add Your Comments

Mariel Stang  12/7/2006)
I have found this page to be very interesting, I live in central Minnesota, and I have a pair of pileated woodpeckers visiting my feeders daily. I have also observed a smaller male, that I am assuming is one of their babies. These are magnificent birds to see, both in flight and pirched.


Ken  Hunt  4/2/2007)
I live in Fort McMurray, Alberta and have had a pair of pileateds at my feeders all winter. They love a suet cake with dried cranberries in it. We also have 3-toed, hairy and downeys. Ours is a real pecker place!


Dave Morrison  5/24/2007)
I live in S.E. Kansas. I started noticing these large woodpeckers in my yard some time ago. After researching the internet, I discovered these birds to be Pileated Woodpeckers. They seem to enjoy my pecan trees.


Diane  Pappas  6/1/2007)
We live in Pickering, Ontario, Canada which is a suburb of Toronto. A pileated woodpecker woke us up this morning trying to bore a hole in one of the window frames of our home. Neighbours have also noticed significant damage to their window frames from the pileateds who seem to be living somewhere in the ravine behind our house. June 1, 2007


Charles Kelleher  7/1/2007)
Piliated woodpeckers are a profound nuisence to homeowners in Southwest Florida. They create large holes on the facades of wooden buildings. They always attack at the juncture of exterior wooden pieces presumable because moisture has been allowed to penetrate and render the wood softer and easier to penetratel, with insects in abundance. They will often attack the same spot after the hole has been filled and repainted. Hanging artificial owls or other predators do not discourage them.


Jan Prescott  7/5/2007)
My husband and I just witnessed a Pileated Woodpecker creating a large hole in a dead part of a willow tree. Its July 5th. Can we look forward to babies, or is it too late in the season? Is this just a sleeping hole?


b manger  10/3/2007)
i am doing the pileated woodpecker as a report and this site really helped me


Nathan Krake  11/9/2007)
Ive seen the pileated woodpecker each time I visit my land in NE Wisconsin, I wasnt 100% sure it was a pileated woodpecker until I heard the loud sound/call it makes. Rather interesting as ive heard they are rare.


clint and stacey caffyn  1/14/2008)
We live in Spruce Grove AB and have downies and a pileated that we havent seen in a few months. we live on an acreage and are curious if it is likely we will see this guy again?? any opinions or help??Thanks.


Jeanyne Schuler  2/28/2008)
We live in northeast Alabama and on several occasions have seen these beautiful woodpeckers around our home as we have many large trees. This morning we watched a pair which we have not seen before and upon researching online realized they mated for life but it was difficult to determine the female; prob the smallist as we did not have binoculars handy. What a joy to see such magnificent birds.


Louis Sander  5/7/2008)
We live in suburban Pittsburgh, and have had one of these guys visiting our yard and feeder for the past week or so. It is really exhilarating to see such a magnificent bird so close to humans. There are many pileated holes and signs in the baseball field/park at the end of our street, maybe a half mile away. I got some good pictures of our guy hanging on a feeder yesterday.


Janice Gonzalez  5/29/2008)
I didnt know that woodpeckers were this big util I saw one in my yard yesterday. It was pecking on a tree stump that I use as a planter stand. My cat almost got it. Silver Spring, MD.


Diane Pappas  5/25/2016)
One young pileated seen surveying the ravine from the top of dead tree July 2008


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