If you have ever heard a low, rapid drumming while walking through the swamp, you may have heard a Pileated Woodpecker defending his territory or courting a mate. Roughly the size of a crow, these large woodpeckers can be found in forest habitats along the East Coast of the United States and throughout Canada, preferring large pieces of dead wood. They can be easily identified by their mostly black body, white striped face, and brilliant red crest for which they are named; pileatus is the Latin word for “capped.” You can often find evidence of Pileated Woodpeckers in the impressive, rectangular excavations they make while pursuing their primary food item: carpenter ants. They can also use their long, barbed tongue to remove beetle larvae and termites deep in the wood. Monogamous pairs defend large territories and raise their young in cavities in late spring.
If you have dead trees on your property that won’t be a hazard during hurricane season, consider leaving them be as they may attract Pileated Woodpeckers to forage, roost or even nest in them!