A good snow usually doubles the traffic at our bird feeders and this morning was no exception. The winter wonderland brought a steady stream of blue jays, cardinals, juncos, chickadees, nuthatches, wrens, and the red-bellied and downey woodpeckers. Our usual visitors. And to our delight this pileated woodpecker also joined the fray. In the thirty plus years we have lived here sightings of this bird have been several times a year in the woods behind our house but only last year did one come to the suet feeder just 15 feet from dining room windows.
The pileated is the largest woodpecker in North America but is surprisingly shy instead of bold as one might expect. She seemed ever alert as she crept around the tree for a bite or two and would take flight at any movement inside the house. This is a female, distinguished from the male by the black stripe from bill across her cheek. On males this stripe is red.
Woody Woodpecker, of Warner Brothers cartoon fame, was inspired by a pileated after the cartoonist was annoyed with a noisy one outside his honeymoon suite.
Here is a link to the distinctive sounds they make: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Pileated_Woodpecker/sounds