Pileated Woodpecker

On April 21 I was outside putting out birdseed when I heard the heavy tok! tok! tok! that I knew had to be a pileated woodpecker. So I scrambled for the camera and was able to get this view of him about 70-80 feet up the big poplar tree east of the house. It had been struck by lightning with a big boom when I was sitting at our breakfast room table a couple of years ago maybe. There is some dead wood there, but here he looks like he has drilled a hole in a live part of the tree.

I was shooting with 400mm lens, iso 5000 and 1/1000 sec, getting about f/14 or f/16 as an aperture. This was my first time to get a lens on a pileated woodpecker since Bent Tree in 2004.

Above, his head is cocked back for another powerful strike at the tree. At right, he seems to have something in his beak, but it may be just a splinter that he has pulled out of the hole.

He looked to be at least 16 inches long.

I was able to move about the back yard as he moved, and he didn't seem to be bothered by my presence. This was an amazing blessing, because I have heard the pileated in the woods behind the house for years, but had actually seen one only once before. This was the first time I had actually gotten a picture of one here.

It was fascinating to see the pileated woodpecker pounding away at the tree trunk. In the second frame from left you can see most clearly that he is propping on his tail feathers against the tree as he repeatedly cocks his head back and hammers the tree.

One of the interesting things about this was the nature of the holes he was putting in the tree. You can see two fresh holes above his head, and they are deep, clean holes. I could see him probing into them and twisting his head about. I don't know whether he was just cleaning out the hole, or probing for grubs or something. Note that the holes are close to the part of the limb that was blown off by the lightning strike.

Young Pileated Woodpecker

On May 12, we were working in the yard and kept hearing the sound of two pileated woodpeckers in the vicinity, which I assumed to be a pair. But finally I saw this young one in a tall pine just south of our lot. I got to see the mother just briefly, but couldn't get the camera on her. Still, I was very pleased to get shots of two pileated woodpeckers in less than a month when I had heard them for years without getting a single photo.

The young one appeared a little more than half as large as the adult. Other than the size, his motions and the appearance of his feathers were a bit different than the adult. And Brenda remarked that his red crest was more like a fuzzy cap than the sharp form of the adult. He poked around this dead limb high on the pine tree for several minutes before I saw the adult fly in from the south. She stayed briefly and flew away and the young one followed her.

Another visit with the pileated woodpecker

Hey, Mom! That looks good! Can I have some?

Wait, Mom! Don't leave!

Now what am I going to do?!

This is hard!

If that chickadee can do it, I can do it!

I got some! Ha! I can do this all by myself!

Now a nice drink of water after supper.

Some other old friends that visited this afternoon. A downy woodpecker, a lady cardinal, and a male cardinal in flight.

Frank Boggs at Big Canoe

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