Pileated Woodpecker

Dryocopus pileatus
Range Map

Described as ‘crow-sized’, the Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in North America. Carpenter ants are its main food source. Not known to occupy the Rocky Mountain states, these birds don’t migrate, and live year round, wherever they are found.

In North America they range from the Sierra Nevada mountains through Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and across Canada from British Columbia, Northwest Territory and Alberta east to the North Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia and south from the Mississippi River Valley and east to Florida.

Today, science recognises two subspecies of Pileated Woodpecker:

  • D. p. pileatus lives in the southeastern United States from southern Kansas east through Illinois to Maryland and south to the Gulf Coast, including Florida and the Florida Keys
  • D. p. abieticola lives in the West from southern Yukon and the Northwest Territories, east to central California, Idaho, western Montana, and southern Alberta, and east through Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and east to the Maritime Provinces. They also live south through North Dakota, Iowa, and Kansas, east Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

My meetings with this species have been limited to a single encounter in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana. I was visiting an old friend near Stevensville, and I discovered these birds were visiting his seed feeders. The birds were rather shy, and I could only capture one worthwhile image. These are birds I’d love to meet again one day.

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