03
May
09

Male and Female Pileated Woodpeckers

I’ve never been a bird fancier, but I’ve always been a hiker.  Since I take along a camera, taking pictures of birds just seems, well…natural.  I’ve been learning about birds based on birds I’ve already found.  For instance, I learned the difference between a Hairy Woodpecker and a Downy Woodpecker because I had taken a picture of a Downy.  I’ve been using the following website to help identify the birds:  http://www.whatbird.com/

On the pages for the individual birds it has a description, usually a picture and also the types of sounds they make.  While listening to the various sounds some of these birds make, I realized I’d been hearing some of them.  The Northern Flicker which I am currently trying to get a picture of, for instance, and the Pileated Woodpecker which I have already photographed.  Today, while hiking, I tried to track down a Northern Flicker that I could hear.  I got distracted by three deer and ended up taking shots of them instead.

Later, while hiking in the same area that I had seen a Pileated Woodpecker a few days ago, I heard one calling.  So, into the woods I went, listening to the forest sounds, trying to comprehend the difference between Squirrels chasing each other and the drumming sound of the Pileated Woodpecker.  I had hoped to find the male and photograph him because I already have a number of photos of the female.

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From a few days ago, this female nervously looked for food on this log while I shot pictures of her.

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Always mindful of her surroundings, she even cast a few nervous glances at me. 

So today while hiking, I tried to find the male.  I heard a Pileated Woodpecker calling and left the hiking trail.  I went into the woods about a hundred feet and then stopped to listen.  I could hear a faint drumming.  The Pileated Woodpecker doesn’t make that sharp tata tat tata tat sound that the smaller woodpeckers make.  It makes a low drumming sound.  I listened and I could hear it drumming.  Deeper into the woods I went.  I had gotten very close and could hear it drumming in the trees around me but couldn’t see it.  Then I noticed movement in a large dead tree about fifty feet away.

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The male Pileated Woodpecker has a red stripe from the bill back.

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He turned out to be much more shy than the female and as soon as I tried to inch closer, he flew away.

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14 Responses to “Male and Female Pileated Woodpeckers”


  1. 1 Sukochi Lee
    July 5, 2009 at 9:35 am

    I saw my first Pileated Woodpecker just a little while ago. We live on two acres of woods in the North Georgia mountains. Jim sees them frequently. We have found their work on many a dead tree in our woods. It was such a majestic bird. How beautiful. I had not realized that the bird call I heard daily was that of this bird. I will head out in our woods and get some pictures for myself soon. Thank you for the information and pictures. Very interesting to read.

  2. 2 carla palau
    June 14, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    We saw a rather large woodpecker at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Ma It had a red head and a spotted brown body…any ideas on what it could be?

  3. 3 Randy Roberts
    June 14, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Not without actually seeing it. Try this website, maybe it can help you identify it.

    http://www.whatbird.com/

    Good luck…

  4. December 13, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Hello My name is Olivia, i have pialated woodpeckers at my house just about every day! And i have wanted to find out how you tell the Female and Male a part, and your website has helped me out a lot!!!

    Thank you,
    Olivia

  5. 5 Randy Roberts
    December 13, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    You’re welcome.

  6. 6 Barb Chambers
    March 1, 2011 at 9:37 am

    Thanks for the photos. We have a few pileateds who have been real regulars to our bird feeder in Burlington VT, especially this winter. Your photos allowed quick identification of a male and a female.

  7. April 21, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    thanks for finding my blog randy, lovely to come here and see your woodpeckers … you sound just like me … tiptoeing through the bush following a bird sound …and indeed learning about them simply by taking photos and then having to study the books and websites to find out which bird it is exactly … and is it the male or female and so on … good fun!

  8. 8 Randy Roberts
    April 21, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    You’re welcome and I look forward to viewing your photography.

  9. April 24, 2012 at 10:27 am

    I love the colorful woodpeckers. We have a pair in our yard (I’m not sure what variety). But they come to eat catfood along with the other birds that don’t seem to realize that they’re supposed to be eating bugs and seeds. LOL. Your photos are lovely. Aren’t the pileated woodpeckers rather large when compared to others varieties?

  10. 10 Randy Roberts
    April 24, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Yes, they are large compared to other woodpeckers, being simliar in size to crows

  11. 11 Patti Holmes
    February 28, 2013 at 7:27 am

    Thanks, this helped us identify the two pileated’s who are frequenting our suet feeders as a pair. Maybe we’ll get some babies this year!

  12. 12 Ellen
    June 20, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Your pictures are great. We found a nest in a county park near our home in Veneta, Oregon. Earlier in the year we watched the male create the nest and now the female is there sticking her head out. We can hear a faint humming sound from the tree. And then to our surprise a small bird popped its head out also. We were excited to realize they had babies.

  13. 13 tish cumper
    July 26, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    We have a pair that come to our suet feeder regularly on our deck in Rolla, Missouri. We live on the edge of a wooded area.


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