LIFE'S BETTER IN THE MOUNTAINS

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pileated Woodpeckers

There are some people not content to see the common birds on a daily basis. They crave some unusual sighting on a regular basis and are happy to chase miles for the chance. Especially for these people I do wish you had Pileated Woodpeckers. No matter how often you see them, it counts as an unusual sighting.

Regular readers are familiar with my love affair with these lovely woodpeckers. Not only do we see them frequently on our community trails, we have a nesting pair right in our own backyard. Almost every morning they come to our suet feeders. The pair almost always come together. We may catch them at other times, but the morning visits are more dependable. If they arrive before the feeders are out, the male (whom we call Big Daddy) calls out. If you have never heard the call of the Pileated Woodpecker, check out this site http://identify.whatbird.com/obj/183/_/Pileated_Woodpecker.aspx scroll down and listen. It seems so strange to hear this tropical-sounding bird in the midst of a North Carolina forest.

Somehow it seems condescending to call these large, magnificent birds our "bread and butter" birds despite the fact that they are regular summer and winter visitors. Perhaps the Pileateds are our "cake and frosting" birds.

The female arrives first, while the male lingers deeper in the woods. It's a bit hard to see in this picture, but the coloring on her face is all black and white. There is no red.

Here you can clearly see the all-black line at the base of the bill.


She scampers around the tree looking for insects.



The male climbs on this lichen-covered limb. You can barely see his red coloring on the base of his bill.



He moves to another tree, and the red line on the base of the bill is very clear.




He cocks his head to one side. He has seen me. But he seems to know that I pose no threat to him.





Just look at his gorgeous body.

We do enjoy our Pileated Woodpeckers. So soothing to hear the resonant drumming and tropical calls. They bring their fledglings in the summer to feed at the suet. And to see them swooping from tree to tree is delightful.
------When you see a Pileated Woodpecker, you breathe a prayer that the Ivory-billed is still around and one day Bill (http://www.billofthebirds.blogspot.com/) or Julie (http://www.juliezickefoose.com/blog/index.php) will get you videos of it.

24 comments:

Lynne said...

I agree with you- these are special birds. I hear them and catch glimpses often at Hasty Brook but to get a really good look thrills me. To me it feels like catching a peek at a dinosaur. They are so huge and beautiful and unusual looking. Aren't their feet enormous?
I've only seen them twice in my yard here in New Hope. The last time it was my New Year's bird (first bird seen on January 1) in 2007.

troutbirder said...

You are soooo lucky! In 40 years here in the Oak Hill woods we have had a grand total of three sighting in our back yard. I often hear them call in nearby Forestville State Park though when I flyfish there in the spring.

fishing guy said...

Carolyn: What beautiful captures of a neat bird. I saw one and it flew directly over my head but no chance for photos. Just a photo in my mind, so I'm glad you shared these.

Dog_geek said...

I just love your Pileated woodpeckers - such stunning birds. We've had a few around here in the past, but I haven't seen one yet this year. We have three different kinds of suet feeders up, including two feeders that are fixed to posts, two hanging cages, and two suet logs, and we get oodles of hairy, downy, and red bellied woodpeckers, but I'm still keeping my eyes peeled for a pileated!

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

These wonderful woodpeckers are here in Northern Ontario in the summer.

There are rules for loggers to protect these birds. When they find a pileated Woodpecker tree (nesting site) they must not cut trees down within a wide zone around the tree.

Cicero Sings said...

We have a pair that visit our feeders too but alas, they don't nest in our yard (lucky you). One day, one male landed within a couple feet of where I was standing, to get a drink. I was amazed. They are magnificent birds!

Cheryl said...

Your beautiful pileated woodpecker is indeed something special.....I to love to hear the drumming of the species.
You are fortunate that they stay with you.....you must have everything they need.....what a priviledge to share your space with them.

I do enjoy seeing your birds, it is an absolute pleasure.

Tina said...

Carolyn,
Oh my what a great post. I WOULD LOVE to see one of these guys. We have them here in Pa. but I have not had the priv of seeing one yet. So beautiful and what a hoot that he calls to you to get those feeders out of your garage! i clicked on ea. pic! Thanks.

The Birdlady said...

Lucky, lucky, lucky you! I haven't seen one in a long time. THanks for sharing yours.

Ruth said...

The unusual call is what led me to my first sighting of a Pileated Woodpecker. I have seen them several times now (never at home) but they are always high up in treetops. Keep sharing those pictures.

Carla said...

I'm with you on the "regular" birds. We're on a small urban lot in Raleigh and don't get to see the pileated, but my parents have them in spades. They are on a farm in lower Sampson County (on Black River, if you're familiar with the southern coastal plain here in NC). You can hear pileateds all over the swamp, calling and drumming. Thanks for the pix and stories. Love 'em. I do have downy woodpeckers at the suet feeder. Adorable. The other "common" birds I anticipate anxiously are the juncos. They are soooo cute. Once I saw a yellow-rumped warbler here and that's about as exotic as it gets in our yard.

Kallen305 said...

I saw your post at work today and wanted so bad to reply, but was too busy.

I actually had a dream last night that I had a pileated woodpecker in my back yard. Yes, weird but true. When I saw your blog entry I took it as a sign. I am going to Worcester Airport this weekend to see if I can find one. The Central Massachusetts Bird Watching site says they are there.

I cant' get over how close you can get to them. I would be beside myself!! Keep posting pics of them on occasion. I can never get sick of looking at them.

Thanks for the treat.

Tabib said...

Beautiful pictures.
Woodpeckers are delighted to hear and see.

KatDoc said...

Both Pileateds and Pine Siskins (from your previous post) would be very welcomed sights at my home. I see Pileateds often on bird walks, but never here, and it is always a thrill to see these huge birds flying overhead or clinging to a tree trunk. I am still looking for my first of the season siskins. Maybe you could shoo yours my way.

~Kathi

Jayne said...

I adore them too Carolyn. They look so very prehistoric, don't they? Thanks so much for sharing them with us.

Shellmo said...

They are a rare treat to see for me! Loved seeing them thru your eyes!

Cedar ... said...

Aren't they just magnificent? I have some here at my place in the Adirondacks of NY, but they are elusive. A sighting is always a treat!

A New England Life said...

Wonderful birds! We see them quite frequently and I feel very fortunate. They really are such a majestic and almost prehistoric looking woodpecker.

Love the pictures! And thanks for pointing out the difs between male and female. For some reason I didn't know that.

Sharon

nina said...

Carolyn--
I'm tagging you with a meme that will post at my site on Saturday. I hope you'll come visit and play along.

Nina at Nature Remains

MicheleRF said...

A striking and interesting bird indeed! My friends who live up the road called and said they were getting a couple there daily on one certain tree so I went up a few times to scope it out. Guess what...they never came back:(
I'm planning a trip to you neck of the woods in August, maybe I'll get a better look at some of these beauties.

NCmountainwoman said...

Lynne - When you get that cabin, I'll bet you will have more sightings.

Troutbirder - Yes, we are lucky to see them almost every day.

Fishing guy - Thanks. I'm glad you saw one in flight, and right over your head.

Dog geek - Our neighbors rarely see them and are amazed that we have them so close.

Pebbles - I'm glad they are so protected. Thanks for dropping by.

Cicero - I've never seen one of them on the ground. That must have been quite a sight.

Cheryl - Thanks. We are indeed fortunate.

Tina - Thanks. I never before imagined they would come to the feeder while we are on the deck.

Helen - We are indeed lucky. But we don't have your wonderful bluebirds.

Ruth - The call never ceases to amaze me.

Carla - Glad you dropped by. Believe it or not, we lived in Sampson County for several years. My husband was an internist in Clinton and we really liked the people and the area. Still have good friends there.

Kallen - Thanks. I do hope you have a sighting.

Tabib - Thanks for dropping by.

Kathi - Our Pine Siskins have departed to other places. Somehow I doubt they are headed to Ohio, but you never know.

Jayne - Yes, they do look very unusual and prehistoric.

Shelley - Thanks. And the lemon curd is wonderful.

Cedar - They are usually elusive. They didn't visit our feeders for almost a year.

New England - Thanks for visiting.

Nina - I'm delighted to be tagged by you. Looking forward to the post.

Michele - They should be pretty active in August. They will be busy feeding the young.

cedrorum said...

Great pictures. Is that snow I'm seeing falling? Pileateds and red-headed are the 2 species that city folk sometimes confuse with the red-cockaded woodpecker in these parts.

Steve B said...

How lucky you are to have Pileated Woodpeckers. They can be difficult to photograph, up high in trees in the deep, dark woods. Thanks for sharing!

Betty Jo said...

The pileated woodpecker is incredible. I'll never forget the first one I ever saw; it was soooo huge. I haven't seen once since we left NC and moved here to TN.