Pileated woodpecker Credit: Courtesy of Bill Colburn

If there’s one thing a pileated woodpecker loves, it’s a decaying tree or a rotten log.

That’s because pileated (pronounced PIE-lee-ay-tid) woodpeckers are poking, peeling and prying away tree bark and dead wood in search of food, according to the National Audubon Society.

That’s precisely what the bird shown was doing when encountered last month by Bill Colburn of Chelsea.

“This woodpecker was hammering away at the rotten log on the edge of my lawn in the pictures, apparently looking for a snack,” Colburn said. “It comes around every now and then, but this is the first time I was able to get some good pictures of it.”

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry says pileated woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) are among nine species of woodpeckers found in the state.

The birds measure up to 16 inches and feature a mostly black body with white stripes on the face and neck. Their most distinctive feature is their flaming red crest. Males also have a red stripe on their cheek.

Their beak typically measures up to 2 1/3 inches, but their tongue grows to almost 7 inches, nearly three times the length of the beak.

Pileated woodpeckers also have recognizable vocalizations, which usually consist of a series of high, clear piping calls that lasts several seconds. They eat ants and other insects, with carpenter ants comprising up to 60 percent of their diet.

They also will gobble down termites and larvae of wood-boring beetles, but approximately another 25 percent of their diet is made up of wild fruits, berries and nuts.

Maine’s other woodpecker species include: Red-headed (Melanerpes erythrocephalus), red-bellied (Melanerpes carolinus), yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius), downy (Picoides pubescens), hairy (Picoides villosus), three-toed (Picoides tridactylus), black-backed (Picoides arcticus) and the northern flicker (Colaptes auratus).

Thanks to Bill for sharing the photo of this beautiful bird.

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Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...