Thursday, October 30, 2008


Guess what? Something extremely exciting happened to me yesterday! I was minding my own business, driving along a country road looking for bucks in a particular old growth forest I don't routinely drive down, when all of a sudden, I heard some loud woodpecker drilling. My first thought was Pileated...Who doesn't automatically wish for a Pileated Woodpecker when you hear drilling? Wouldn't it be cool if I finally found my nemesis bird? ( I have yet to see one, let alone photograph one. These woodpeckers are not common in Illinois, and even more scarce in the northern parts.) Anyhoo...I listened for awhile, and heard a call...then a drill...then a call again. It wasn't exactly like a flicker, but similar. It was deeper, and slower, and just...well...different. I had an eerie feeling... Then..all of a sudden I saw some movement in a distant tree. I looked thru my lens and saw THE red crest. Oh. My. God! The rush of endorphins raced thru me...I had to get a shot! I focused in...waited for the head to appear...[click]...waited for the body to move out of cover...[click]...He flew off...He flew closer! [click][click] He flew off and out of view with a his...(wait for it)... mate! ...She calls back!...They both call to eachother and land on nearby trees! Where are they? Oooh... I see one [click]. It flies to a tree behind me. I twist and contort to shoot out the back side window, but he hides on the other side of the tree. I wait with my strain, but its absolutely worth it... I wait some more...He pops to the front of the tree [click]. I shoot some more, hear a call, then in a flash he is gone. The forest goes quiet except for the lil woodpeckers which seem to be everywhere. I spend my next hour or so shooting every kind of woody I can think of. Mr & Mrs. Woody Woodpecker never did come back, but you can bet that I will spend lots of quality time in this Woodpecker Wonderland!

(I found out later upon further inspection that this guy I keep referring to is a gal. Sorry Mrs. W.)

Interesting Facts: Nearly as large as a crow, the Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in most of North America. Its loud ringing calls and huge, rectangular excavations in dead trees announce its presence in forests across the continent.

The Pileated Woodpecker digs characteristically rectangular holes in trees to find ants. These excavations can be so broad and deep that they can cause small trees to break in half.

A Pileated Woodpecker pair stays together on its territory all year round. It will defend the territory in all seasons, but will tolerate floaters during the winter.

Sexes similar, male has red crown and forehead and red in black mustache stripe. Female has gray to yellow-brown forehead and no red in mustache stripe.

Pileated Woodpecker populations declined greatly with the clearing of the eastern forests. The species rebounded in the middle 20th century, and has been increasing slowly but steadily in most of its range. Only in Arkansas do numbers seem to be going down.

Source: All About Birds


Richard said...

Congrats....great shots. The first time I saw a Pileated all I could think about was a prehistoric bird. They are majestic birds.

jalynn01 said...

Nice shots! Please do go there and take more.. I love seeing pictures of these woodpeckers in the woods. I never get them it seems. Your shots are so candid and beautiful. You did good!!!

Shellmo said...

Yea!! I love the Pileateds! Congrats! And you shot them in good light!
I hope to get some more photos this weekend at the cabin - I think they've made the wooded lot next to me their territory!

Bird Girl said...

Yippee for YOU, Hannibal!!! I can bet you'll be cruising back to this area over and over ;-) Wonderful shots and how lucky for you that the sun was lighting up your subject! She is gorgeous and I can even see her tongue in a couple of shots - congratulations and I look forward to many more of these!

Nick S said...

Aren't they excellent Woodpeckers to find :-) congrats

Gardener's Garden said...

Congratulations on your find and you got some excellant shots. My daughter lives in Northern Michigan and regularly get a pair of these in her yard and even had to op to photograph a juvenile. Hers are twice the size of a crow.

The Birdlady said...

Congratulations! That is truly exciting

Marsha said...

Your narrative was so great, it drew me in and I was so excited to see the first photo, I felt like I was there with you! How wonderful to be able to capture these magical looking birds, I have woodpecker envy :-)

Todd Dixon said...

Congratulations! Pileated WPs are still stunning to me when I encounter them. They are just so big. And congrats on another fine batch of photos :-)