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Pileated Woodpecker laughs from the trees

Hey! Who dares to laugh at me? I was walking though Scarborough’s Guildwood Park when I heard a far-carrying laugh: Kuk kuk keekeekeekeekeekeekeekuk kuk! (I discovered later that the laugh is accurately described as a ‘jungle-bird call’). As the noise came again, and I looked around trying to find who or what was making this noise, I heard loud and deep ‘wek’ sounds. Furthering my confusion, these calls were followed by drumming sounds that made me think someone was rapidly hitting a tree with a hammer. No sooner than my brain put the bird shaped puzzle pieces together than I finally saw ‘it’ flying from one tree to the next: a Pileated Woodpecker, complete with its bright red and dinosaur-modeled head.

PHOTO: Ann Brokelman

The Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) is a very large woodpecker, roughly crow-sized, that eats mainly insects, such as carpenter ants, as well as fruits, nuts and berries. The Pileated Woodpecker has an extra long and very sticky tongue that it uses to stick into tree crevices to find ants. The Pileated is one of the largest woodpeckers, at 40 to 49 cm (16 to 19 in) in length and spanning 66 to 75 cm (26 to 30 in) across the wings. A Pileated Woodpecker’s head is quite ancient looking, reminding me of many of my son’s old dinosaur toys.  They are colored mostly black, with a red crest, and a white line down the sides of the throat. Adult males also have a red line from their bill to their throat. The adult females have the same line, but in black.

How would you encourage a Pileated Woodpecker to visit your property? If you have dead or dying trees, consider leaving them alone as they may attract Pileated Woodpeckers (as well as other woodpeckers, nuthatches, etc.) to forage for insects. They might also visit a feeder stocked with suet.

A couple of cool woodpecker facts:

• The Pileated Woodpecker makes distinctively rectangular holes in trees to find ants. These excavations can be so broad and deep that they can cause small trees to break in half.

• A mated pair of Pileated Woodpeckers will stay together on their territory year round. They will defend their territory in all seasons.

• The oldest known Pileated Woodpecker was 12 years 11 months old.

2 Responses »

  1. I had to share this.

    This morning, while making breakfast, I heard a huge thud against our kitchen window. Looking up, I saw a flurry of brown wings. A red tail hawk had flown directly into our back window, and then landed on the fence to gather its composure, before flying out of the garden. It was awesome.

    It also explains why the smaller birds and squirrels were quiet today.

    We live on Courcelette, and it's amazing to me that such a large predator survives in the Beach neighborhood.

  2. Hi Mark:
    Lots of red tails in the Beach, Tommy Thompson park and also on the bluffs. Great food supply nearby in the bluffs mice and voles. You also have the golf course with lots of woods for them to hide in and hunt. Plus also the bird feeders.

    I have them hunting at my house as well. The bird feeders are a attraction to them. If you happen on the highways or the 407 watch for red-tails. We counted 27 on Hwy 407 the other day.

    Keep an eye out for the hawk he may be back.

    If ever you see a hawk that is injured please call Toronto Wildlife Centre.

    Wildlife situations: If you have found a wild animal in need of help, information that may help you could be available on this website. If you are unable to find the help you need on this website, or if you have encountered a wildlife emergency, please call 416-631-0662, follow the voice prompts, and leave a detailed message. A wildlife specialist will return your call as quickly as possible.

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