Once you start seeing pileated woodpeckers, you can’t stop

I saw my first pileated woodpecker, in person, on Feb. 22 while hiking through Kingdom Woods in Blue Hill. And on my next hike on March 3, I saw three pileated woodpeckers. A coincidence? I think not.

Pileated woodpeckers have a distinctive call; and once you can match the call with the bird, the bird is a lot easier to find. To listen to the various sounds a pileated woodpecker can make, visit www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/pileated_woodpecker/id.

From the many woodpeckers I’ve tracked down in the woods this winter, I’ve also learned a bit about how they drum on trees in search for food. The difference makes sense. A pileated woodpecker is Maine’s largest woodpecker (the size of a crow), and its drumming sounds a lot more powerful than the drumming of the smaller hairy woodpecker or the even smaller downy woodpecker. I’m no bird expert, but that’s what I’ve learned through listening in the woods, then checking my observations with reliable online sources.

The first pileated woodpecker I spotted in Kingdom Woods flew off before I could get some really good photos of him, but the three woodpeckers I saw more recently didn’t seem to mind as I slowly approached them with my camera. Here is the result:

Here are a few tidbit about pileated woodpeckers that I learned from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/pileated_woodpecker/id.

• Pileated woodpeckers whack at dead trees and fallen logs in search for carpenter ants and other insects, leaving unique rectangular holes in the wood.
• The nest holes these birds make offer crucial shelter to many species, including owls, ducks, bats and pine martens.
• Males have a red stripe on the cheek.
• Their flight undulates like other woodpeckers, which helps separate them from a crow’s straight flight path.
• A pileated woodpecker pair stays together on its territory all year round. It will defend the territory in all seasons, but will tolerate new arrivals during the winter.
• The oldest known Pileated Woodpecker was 12 years 11 months old.
Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.