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).
Statewide, in appropriate habitats.
Habitat and Conservation
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.
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.
Where to See Species
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.