Dean M. Chriss
Pileated Woodpecker, Nest Building

Pileated Woodpecker, Nest Building

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I found this male pileated woodpecker and his mate building a nest in a dead tree that also held an osprey nest at the end of the same large branch. The constant pounding was rightfully of some concern to the ospreys. Pileated woodpeckers sometimes excavate such large nest cavities that they cause the tree to break. I observed the pair of woodpeckers taking turns excavating their nest for three days. The male did the vast majority of the digging. The female would fly in for a short bout of excavating and an inspection.

Except for the probably extinct ivory-billed woodpecker, the pileated woodpecker is the largest woodpecker found in the United States. Adults are 16 to 19 inches (40 to 49 cm) long with a wingspan of 26 to 30 inches (66 to 75 cm). They inhabit deciduous forests in eastern North America, the Great Lakes, the boreal forests of Canada, and parts of the Pacific coast.