Florida Pileated Woodpecker: A Crimson Crested Forest Engineer

Florida’s forests echo with the rhythmic drumming and loud calls of a distinctive resident: the pileated woodpecker. This magnificent bird, boasting a fiery crest and powerful beak, plays a vital role in maintaining the health of its woodland home. Let’s explore the unique features of this remarkable species and uncover some interesting facts about its life in the Sunshine State.

Florida Pileated Woodpecker

Characteristics Of Florida Pileated Woodpecker

  • Size: About the size of a crow, measuring 16-19 inches long with a 28-33 inch wingspan.
  • Coloration: Black body with bold white stripes on the head and neck. Both males and females have a bright red crest, but only males sport a red malar stripe.
  • Beak: Long and chisel-like, perfectly adapted for drilling wood.
  • Flight: Broad, rounded wings with white patches visible in flight.
  • Sound: Loud, distinctive drumming on dead trees and a whinnying call.
  • Habitat: Found in mature forests with large trees, swamps, and woodlands.
  • Diet: Primarily insects, especially carpenter ants, but also fruits, nuts, and berries.
  • Nesting: Excavates rectangular holes in dead trees for nesting, often creating homes for other species afterwards.

Florida Pileated Woodpecker Striking Appearance

With a size rivaling a crow, the pileated woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in North America (excluding the possibly extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker). Its prominent scarlet crest adds a vibrant splash of color against its jet-black body, striped head, and white underparts. Males wear a striking red malar stripe, further distinguishing them from their female counterparts.

Expert Excavator

This avian architect utilizes its strong, chisel-like beak to hammer away at dead trees, creating large, rectangular holes in search of its main food source: carpenter ants. These excavations attract other insect-loving creatures, contributing to the ecosystem’s biodiversity.

Drumming Dynamo

Beyond ant-hunting, the pileated woodpecker uses its powerful drumming as a form of communication, attracting mates, defending territory, and announcing its presence. Their resonant drumming echoes through the woods, a testament to their strength and territorial nature.

Adaptable Omnivore

While carpenter ants are a favorite, the pileated woodpecker’s diet is diverse. They readily consume beetle larvae, fruits, berries, and even nuts, demonstrating their ability to adapt to seasonal changes in food availability.

Florida Pileated Woodpecker Forest Architects

Their excavated cavities often become homes for other cavity-nesting birds, bats, and small mammals once the woodpecker family moves on. This creates a vital network of shelters within the forest ecosystem.


  • Are they threatened? Fortunately, pileated woodpeckers are currently listed as common and of Least Concern. However, habitat loss and fragmentation remain potential threats.
  • Where can I see them? Look for them in mature forests, swamps, and wooded areas throughout Florida. Keep your ears peeled for their drumming and loud calls, and scan for rectangular holes in dead trees.
  • Are they attracted to suet feeders? While not their primary food source, they may occasionally visit feeders, especially in winter when natural food is scarce.
  • What’s the difference between pileated and red-bellied woodpeckers? Pileated woodpeckers are significantly larger and have a crimson crest, while red-bellied woodpeckers lack a crest and have a red patch on their belly.


The Florida pileated woodpecker is more than just a captivating sight and sound; it’s a crucial cog in the forest ecosystem. By appreciating its unique features and ecological importance, we can ensure that this feathered engineer continues to thrive in the Sunshine State for generations to come.

For More Information Visit: BirdsFacts.com