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The Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker on Suet Log Feeder
Pileated woodpecker on a suet log feeder, Minnesota. © Photo by Barbara Tarburton

Native to the Great Lakes region, the Pileated Woodpecker is the largest species of woodpecker in North America. They average 16 - 19 inches in length (for reference, that's taller than a bowling pin and nearly the size of a crow!). They get their name from the Latin term pileatus meaning "capped," because of their vibrant red crest. They've been sporting red mohawks since before Pink was a pop star!

The pileated woodpecker’s diet consists primarily of carpenter ants which they excavate from dead or dying trees with their chisel-like bill—pecking up to 20 times per second. While the tasty black delicacy makes up to 40% of an average bird’s diet, our favorite featured friends will visit bird feeders in search of suet. Make your feeder more appetizing by offering premium high-energy woodpecker suet, formulated with mealworms and black oil sunflower seeds, and free from any fillers or preservatives.

When it comes time to settle down, pileated woodpeckers will choose a mate and the pair will stay together for life. That's right, monogamy is alive and well for this woodpecker species! The happy couple will also maintain the same territory all year-round. Even if their mate is lost, a pileated will not abandon their home. We love the loyalty and pride that this illustrates in our totem bird.

Pileated Woodpeckers Nest Babies
Pileated woodpecker babies nesting (cue the aww!)

When it comes time to raise a family, pileated woodpeckers will select a larger dead tree for nesting. In fact, one of the best ways to draw these beautiful birds to your property is to offer attractive neighborhood options. If your yard is free of dead trees consider putting up a nesting box well before breeding season. Woodpeckers rarely use the same nest site twice, but don’t worry, other species such as owls and swifts are more than happy to make use of the old nest. 

Our love of pileated woodpeckers developed in our backyard on Shallow Brook Drive, where we were lucky to have a daily visitor to our suet feeder. My Dad would call me into the living room with binoculars in hand, overjoyed and eager to see our friend in action. When I started Shallow Brook Drive, there was little doubt in my mind as to who was to be my totem bird represented throughout our store and boldly in our logo as a reminder for why I started the company. The pileated woodpecker stands for Midwest values (pecking is hard work!), as well as respect and support for its environment and neighbors, and nostalgia for home. Indoors and out, we can't get enough of this one-of-a-kind bird.