Bird Database

Pileated Woodpecker

(Dryocopus pileatus)

State of the Birds
At a Glance





Strongly increasing


Habitat loss and fragmentation

Conservation Actions

None identifified

Pileated Woodpecker

(Dryocopus pileatus)

Pileated Woodpeckers are large and loud, and readily make themselves known if they are in the area. Both their common noises can carry a considerable distance. Their characteristic drumming is reminiscent of a vibrating diving board that trails off at the end. Both sexes drum, and it is their main means of proclaiming their territory. One of their most common vocalizations is a repeated high-pitched “wuk wuk wuk wuk wuk,” that is frequently used (erroneously) in jungle scene soundtracks. This can also serve in territory defense but is mainly used for communication between a mated pair.

Pileated Woodpeckers require large trees for nesting and feeding, and likely declined after eastern forests were heavily cleared following European settlement. As the northeastern United States has reforested this large woodpecker has made a remarkable comeback, perhaps aided by some level of adaptation to fragmented landscapes. It’s not uncommon to see a Pileated foraging in a suburban neighborhood or flying over an interstate highway between patches of forest.

Even if you don’t see or hear them, it’s easy to know when Pileated Woodpeckers are in an area. In their efforts to extract prey from dead or dying trees and logs, they excavate distinctive rectangular holes with their chisel-like bills. If a tree is particularly rich in carpenter ant larvae or beetle grubs, woodpeckers will completely demolish it over time, leaving only a pile of wood chips. During fall and winter they also consume nuts and fruit, and it can be something of a surprise to see a gigantic woodpecker hanging from tangled vines as it tries to pick the grapes.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Pileated Woodpecker
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count