I encountered a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers yesterday afternoon, which was a rare and special treat.
For those who aren’t familiar, the Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in North America. They are 15.8-19.3 in (40-49 cm) long with a wingspan of 26.0-29.5 in (66-75 cm). They don’t typically visit bird feeders, as their diet consists mainly of insects; although they may occasionally visit feeders for seeds or suet. (I have never seen one at my feeders.) Individuals also have large territories, so it is uncommon to encounter more than one Pileated Woodpecker at a time, or to have more than one mating pair in your immediate area.
I’ve known for some time that we have a pair in the neighborhood, who I hear much more often than I see. They usually stay in the woods, relatively out of sight.
That’s why yesterday’s encounter was so special. I was sitting outside working (my camera within reach, just in case) when I spotted a female Pileated Woodpecker just beyond the back fence. As I was photographing her, the male arrived, and the two proceeded to forage together, which was fascinating to watch.
Here’s how to tell them apart: while both sexes don a bright red crest, the female has a grey-black forecrown and a black cheek strip. The male has a bright red crown and red cheek stripe.