On our recent hike that drew over 150 people, Photographer Bob Lorenz took this image of massive cavities carved high up on the trunk of a dead tree. Those oblong holes are the calling card of North America’s largest woodpecker, the Pileated!
A shy bird that almost never visits feeders like our other woodpeckers (Downy, Hairy, and Red-Bellied), the Pileated is usually only seen in glimpses as it flies through the the forest, or heard as males loudly drum trees to stake out territories. Here is a description from Cornell University, and the secret to those strange holes:
The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the biggest, most striking forest birds on the continent. It’s nearly the size of a crow, black with bold white stripes down the neck and a flaming-red crest. Look (and listen) for Pileated Woodpeckers whacking at dead trees and fallen logs in search of their main prey, carpenter ants, leaving unique rectangular holes in the wood. The nest holes these birds make offer crucial shelter to many species including swifts, owls, ducks, and bats.
We wrote above that the Pileated is North America’s largest woodpecker. There used to be an even larger one, the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, now almost certainly extinct after heavy logging activity devastated the population in the late 19th century. So for the Pileated Woodpecker, and all the other creatures of The Preserve, let’s save the 1,000-Acre Forest.