My yard is a Mecca for woodpeckers. From the little Downy and Hairy woodpeckers, through the Red-Bellied and the Red-Headed woodpeckers, we have them all. We also have a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers regularly inspecting our tree trunks for juicy insects.
Our house is about 50 years old, and many of the white maples in our yard were planted when the house was being built. Those trees are now in various stages of decline. One is on its last leg, and all have broken or rotting limbs to some degree.
Therefore, the woodpeckers.
We had a nesting pair of Pileated Woodpeckers several years ago. The beautiful birds found an open cavity in one of the trees, and with a little custom work of their own, they expanded the opening and pecked out a nice nesting spot. Pileated Woodpeckers are very demanding in the choice of nesting sites, so we felt honored.
The Pileated is Virginia’s largest woodpecker, about the size of a crow. They dine on all sorts of insects, but their favorite entrée is a big, fat carpenter ant. They will occasionally come to our feeder when it has been stocked with a mixture of seeds, berries and nuts.
The large birds have one nest per year with 3 to 5 eggs. Both the father and mother bird sit on the eggs to aid in incubation. After hatching, the young birds remain in the nest for about 4 weeks, an unusually long time in the avian world.
The rather dashing birds have a splendid red crest, much like a wood duck. The word pileated, by the way, comes form the Latin word pileatus, which means capped.
One of the distinct traits of these woodpeckers is their call. It’s a loud call that sounds like that of a tree frog amplified many times. The male, female and chicks are quite verbal, and I enjoy hearing their chatter in the trees.
At one time, the species was threatened, but seems to be making a comeback finding suitable habitat in many second growth forests.
The non-migratory birds are year-round residents in Virginia and, as such, they are most welcome to any insect in any tree with in our yard.