SIB “Bird of the Week” – Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus
Length:  15.7 – 19.3″; Wingspan: 26 – 29.5″; Weight: 8.8 – 12.3 oz.

Who remembers this theme song?

Did you realize the character of Woody Woodpecker was based on a Pileated Woodpecker?

This bird is the largest woodpecker on Seabrook Island with a long neck, mostly black with white stripes on the face and a flaming-red triangular crest that sweeps off the back of the head. The bill is long and chisel-like, about the length of the head. Males have a red stripe on the cheek. In flight, the wings are broad and the bird can seem crow-like.

Pileated Woodpeckers feed mostly on ants and other insects, but also will eat fruits and nuts. Carpenter ants may be up to 60% of diet and they also eat other ants (rarely digging into anthills on ground), termites, larvae of wood-boring beetles and other insects. About one-quarter of the diet may be wild fruits, berries, and nuts.  They also like to feed on suet, as you can see from this video below:

Pileated Woodpeckers drill distinctive rectangular-shaped holes in rotten wood to get at carpenter ants and other insects. They are loud birds with whinnying calls. They also drum on dead trees in a deep, slow, rolling pattern, and even the heavy chopping sound of foraging carries well. Their flight undulates like other woodpeckers, which helps separate them from a crow’s straight flight path.

The Pileated Woodpecker is common to Seabrook Island and is said to be seen often pecking on the dead branches of the live oak behind the POA office.  They are also frequently seen and heard along the golf courses.

A group of Pileated Woodpeckers are collectively known as a “crown” of woodpeckers.

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

Article submitted by:  Judy Morr
Photographs provided by:  Charles Moore & Ed Konrad

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

Author: sibirders

SEABROOK ISLAND BIRDERS / “watching, learning, protecting” Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) are residents, renters and guests of Seabrook Island, SC who have an interest in learning, protecting and providing for the well-being of the incredible variety of birds that inhabit Seabrook Island throughout the year.

4 thoughts on “SIB “Bird of the Week” – Pileated Woodpecker”

  1. I think Piliated were once studied by football helmet manufacturers to figure out how they could bang their heads so hard without concussions.


    1. Yes Andy, you are correct. I happen to recently watch the movie Concussion in which a reference was made to woodpeckers and other animals who routinely take tremendous hits to their heads. I just googled and found several interesting articles referencing the study of woodpeckers to improve the ability to protect humans from head impacts. Here is one I found interesting as it includes a diagram of how a woodpecker’s head is constructed. As always, thanks for your comment!


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