The Pileated Woodpecker Family

I feel a migraine coming on when I watch these beautiful birds drilling into the rotten wood, their beaks vibrating like mini jack hammers, but I’m very thankful for the woodpeckers, who eat of a lot of the insects we might otherwise be overrun with. They eat ants! So they’re welcome here any time. They also eat larvae of tree beetles that work at destroying our forests. Woodpeckers are very good for the well-being of our ecology.

It was hard to get a photo that wasn’t blurry. Their heads moved so quickly. This family of three was so busy they didn’t even notice me standing nearby taking pictures. If only I could have gotten them to stand still for a few seconds for a photo shoot. Can you see the third woodpecker above the red head of the one on the left?


This part of my backyard has several old rotten stumps and broken off trees that we’ve left as they are, mainly because it makes great woodpecker habitat.



That’s the mother with her head in the stump and the “baby” on the right, wondering what to do. I know he’s the baby because I saw the mother feeding him a bug just moments later. Maybe she found something in that stump.??????????

I always thought pileated woodpeckers were what Woody Woodpecker was modeled after, but apparently Woody is designed for the acorn woodpecker. I looked up the acorn woodpecker and can’t see the resemblance to Woody. To me he looks more like the pileated woodpecker, mainly because of the tuft of red hair (feathers) on his head.



While the mother flew to a nearby tree, Junior worked over a broken off tree. The whole time he was chipping at the punky wood, he made muted bird-grunting noises that sounded a bit like, “Ehh … aaaa … ehh … ehh….”??????????????????????????????051Father, in the meantime, was taking on the big job of breaking apart the decaying  fir stump nearby, while keeping an eye on Junior. You might see a blurry glimpse of Dad behind the stump. Notice the small piece of log on the right of the stump next to the grass clippings.????????????????????Moments later, the small log to the right of the stump has company. As I watched, and took photos, a big chunk of bark fell down. Compare the two pictures, taken only seconds apart and you’ll see the progress the father was making with his chipping at the wood. All around the front of the stump too, are chips of wood dropped there by the woodpeckers’ efforts to get at the bugs inside the stump.

My yard is not manicured but the birds seem to like it that way. If I cleaned up their mess and removed the old rotten stumps they probably wouldn’t come back and I love to see them when they visit me.

24 thoughts on “The Pileated Woodpecker Family

    • I love to see woodpeckers of all sorts, and the stumps and a few snags we have in that corner of the place are like the dining room table for them. I was surprised too, that they let me get close enough to take these pics.


      • I’ve only seen one Pileated here and that was several years ago and he didn’t stay around very long. We have lots of Flickers but the Downeys that were here all winter have gone.


        • We have quite a few pileateds, many flickers, and a few hairys and Downeys. I’m surprised you had Downeys there all winter. I would have thought they’d stay someplace warmer for the winter and then come there in the spring.


  1. Great photos. I don’t think we have pileated woodpeckers in Southern California. I have seen woodpeckers with red coloring on their heads but it does not look like a crest. I will have to research it a bit. I never realized they could leave all those wood chips too. We do get woodpeckers in our yard from time to time. I always like to hear the tap, tap, tap.


  2. You have a marvelous property, Anneli. Terrific captures.

    I’ve seen Pileated Woodpecker only a few times over the decades. But I do recall one day when I heard one. I lived in the country, surrounded by fields and far from human activity. I heard the sound of someone banging irregularly on a telephone pole. At least that was the snap conclusion I made. Then I realized, huh, wait a minute – there are no poles around here! Sure enough, I caught a glimpse of the bird in a stand of trees.


  3. I love woodpeckers as well. They are so comical and entertaining to watch. We have quite a few of them here in Parksville, and fortunately for me we also have a fair number of trees bordering the perimeter of our backyard. I’ll never forget the day we heard the jack hammer going off on the metal chimney above our family room. It scared the life out of us, but it was just a young woodpecker testing out the nice shiny “stump” sticking out of our roof! Love the photos!


    • I think it’s good to have trees and stumps around the yard or they might just start hammering on the wood siding of our house. That must have been quite a surprise to hear the hammering on your chimney.


  4. Fun birds to watch, I am almost sure we have the same kind in our garden sometimes. Very nice pictures! I am like you, my garden is also not manicured – the birds, bees and the rest of the little creatures are thankful for it.


    • Yes, rotten wood is punky. I think we get more of that on the coast than you would in the drier interior. I’m happy to see families of woodpeckers. It’s great to see the individuals, but to see the family and know they nest here is a bonus.


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