Pileated Woodpecker

Photograph of a pileated woodpecker, side view
Scientific Name
Dryocopus pileatus
Picidae (woodpeckers) in the order Piciformes

The pileated woodpecker is a crow-sized woodpecker that is primarily black, with white highlights and a red crest. Males have an entirely red crown and a red moustachial streak. Both sexes have horizontal black and white stripes on the face and a white stripe that extends down the neck. Seen from below in flight, the wing lining is white, and a white line extends along each side of the throat to the base of the bill. The loud, resonant drumming sounds something like a banging hammer.


Length: 16½ inches (tip of bill to tip of tail).

Where To Find
Pileated Woodpecker Distribution Map

Statewide, in appropriate habitats.

Pileated woodpeckers favor large forests; they excavate nest cavities in dead trees, so mature forests containing suitable nesting trees are important.

Insects, nuts, fruits, and sap make up most of the diet. In winter, ants constitute much of the food supply.

The pileated woodpecker is an uncommon permanent resident in forested habitats throughout most of Missouri. It is most abundant in the large forests of the Ozarks, and it is least common in the northwest region.

Life Cycle

In spring, the male bores a nest hole in a tree trunk, and the pair raise their nestlings together.

These large woodpeckers are striking to behold. They certainly made an impression on the makers of the “Woody Woodpecker” cartoon, whose main character was modeled after this species.

This species plays an important role in decreasing populations of insects, many of which might seriously injure trees if left unchecked. Also, the nest cavities they create are used later by many other animals that can’t bore their own cavities.

Media Gallery
Similar Species

Where to See Species

This is a forest area that has an archery and firearms range. This area has unimproved roads that are open to public vehicles. These roads may not be shown on area maps or posted with signs.
The Conservation Department purchased Platte Falls Wildlife Management Area in 1980 with funds from the 1/8 of 1% Design for Conservation sales tax.
Rockwoods Range is a premium stop for outdoor adventurers. The area is mostly forested, but you'll also encounter glades and other natural habitats.
Bear Creek Conservation Area is located in Laclede County, northeast of Lebanon. The area was purchased from the University of Missouri in 1965.
About Birds in Missouri

About 350 species of birds are likely to be seen in Missouri, though nearly 400 have been recorded within our borders. Most people know a bird when they see one — it has feathers, wings, and a bill. Birds are warm-blooded, and most species can fly. Many migrate hundreds or thousands of miles. Birds lay hard-shelled eggs (often in a nest), and the parents care for the young. Many communicate with songs and calls.