Tag Archives: Pileated Woodpecker

What’s black and white and red and blue?

Two birds I saw on a walk.

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A Blue Jay on the lawn.

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Pileated Woodpecker in a tree, with moss and a climbing cactus.

The Cornell Lab Bird Academy: How Birds Make Colorful Feathers

As one might expect from the amazing diversity of colors and patterns exhibited by more than 10,000 bird species found in the world, birds can see color. The colors in the feathers of a bird are formed in two different ways, from either pigments or from light refraction caused by the structure of the feather.

A woodpecker’s brilliant red cap is formed by pigmentation of the feathers, but a blue jay’s feathers look blue because of the structure of the feather and the way it scatters incoming light.

If you find the feather of a Blue Jay or Steller’s Jay you can see for yourself how this works. First, observe the feather in normal lighting conditions and you will see the expected blue color. Next, try back-lighting the feather. When light is transmitted through the feather it will look brown. The blues are lost because the light is no longer being reflected back and the brown shows up because of the melanin in the feathers.

The biggest, loudest woodpeckers

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I nominate this Pileated Woodpecker for Best in Crest. Look at that red blaze of glory!

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I spotted a pair of pileateds in a live oak tree this morning about a block from home. Actually, I heard them first. You can just barely see the red cheek stripe on this bird, which means it’s the male.

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Loud banging away at the bark, looking for breakfast.

  • The Pileated Woodpecker digs characteristically 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.

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The light was just right to get some nice zoom shots. The woodpeckers didn’t seem to care I was standing under their tree.

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The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the biggest, most striking forest birds on the continent. It’s nearly the size of a crow, black with bold white stripes down the neck and a flaming-red crest. Look (and listen) for Pileated Woodpeckers whacking at dead trees and fallen logs in search of their main prey, carpenter ants, leaving unique rectangular holes in the wood.

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On my way back from a walk to the end of the peninsula, I found them spiraling up a palm tree.

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Wish that pic was in focus, but it still shows the amazing wings, feathers, bold colors of this bird.

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Here you can see the two stiffened tail feathers that help prop the bird and provide extra support.

I see at least two of these woodpeckers regularly near our Florida home but somehow have never photographed and blogged them. I would see them in New Hampshire, but rarely. Check that off the list!

That is 75 birds I have seen, photographed, IDed, learned about and blogged so far in Florida. My New Hampshire “backyard” list was 64. My 2018 list (which so far includes Florida and Curacao) is up to 44.

What’s all that ruckus?

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Big, loud bird… and about the size of a mallard duck, but clawing its way up the underside of a tree… impossible not to notice when it’s knocking and hammering around in the front yard for a couple of days.

Hello, Pileated Woodpecker.

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.

Pileated!

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Not the best photo ever, but you can see that a Pileated Woodpecker visited our backyard this morning!

It was flying around from tree to tree, not staying long in any one spot. In four or five minutes it was gone. I barely had time to find my camera and focus. I would not have noticed it except for its big red crest.

The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the biggest, most striking forest birds on the continent. It’s nearly the size of a crow, black with bold white stripes down the neck and a flaming-red crest. Look (and listen) for Pileated Woodpeckers whacking at dead trees and fallen logs in search of their main prey, carpenter ants, leaving unique rectangular holes in the wood.

Oh please stay, big woodpecker! We had a plague of carpenter ants last spring and summer.

This is my 45th backyard bird noted on the sidebar.