Pileated Woodpecker – Our Woodland Cartoon Character

By Jim White: Associate Director, Land and Biodiversity

One of the few (and I do mean few) benefits of being an aging birder is witnessing changes over the years that occur in bird populations.  Although many of these changes have been for the worse, a few actually have been for the better, at least from a birder’s point of view.

One change that has occurred over the last 30 years in Northern Delaware is an increase in the numbers of Pileated Woodpeckers.  When I started birding in the late 1970’s, these majestic birds were a relatively rare sight.  Today they are found commonly in most woodlands in our area.  This increase in population is probably a result of the maturing of our woodlands and the resulting increase in large trees, both alive and dead, on which they depend.  Their increased numbers have in turn resulted in many more opportunities to see these “Woody Woodpecker” look-a-likes.  However, even though observations are more frequent, it is still a treat to get a very close look at these magnificent birds.  Recently some visitors and staff at the Ashland Nature Center have been lucky enough to get such a treat – incredibly close views of a young male Pileated Woodpecker aggressively hammering on dead trees and branches.  The bird is often so intent on finding insects in the trees that it has allowed observers to approach to within thirty feet, presenting excellent photo opportunities.

This Pileated Woodpecker has been along the entrance walkway at Ashland Nature Center recently. Photo by Jim White

Speaking of photo ops, birder and local conservationist Bill Stewart found a leucistic (mostly white) Pileated Woodpecker recently in Shaw’s Bridge Park outside West Chester, PA.  Bill even managed to get a couple of very nice photos of the bird feeding in a tree. 

Here is the leucistic Pileated Woodpecker found by Bill Stewart near West Chester, PA. Photo by Bill Stewart
The leucistic Pileated Woodpecker is seen here with its normal, dark-colored mate. Photo by Bill Stewart

The next time you are visiting Ashland Nature Center or hiking in your favorite woodlands, keep an eye out and your camera ready for this majestic bird.

Free bird walks are led by Delaware Nature Society staff each Thursday at Ashland Nature Center from February through May.  Walks begin at 8:00 a.m.

6 thoughts on “Pileated Woodpecker – Our Woodland Cartoon Character”

  1. Just saw this beautiful bird at edge of our yard pecking away at the tree bark near ground and then moving up the tree. It was so wonderful to see him here in South Windsor, CT. I had admired him in the bird book over the years and now we had the treat of seeing in person. Many thanks for your lovely postings of pileated woodpeckers.

  2. Suzanne Fischer

    I live in Middletown, De and just saw my very first one in my yard today. It was beyond thrilling!

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