Adult pileated woodpecker shows youngster the ropes

Photo by Chris Bosak
A pileated woodpecker knocks on a fallen tree trunk as it looks for insects, Danbury, Conn., summer 2019.

I heard a loud banging from my side yard the other day. I assumed a neighbor was doing some work involving a hammer as noises echo and carry far in the small lake community in which I live.

Like any good, nosy neighbor, I stepped onto the deck to see what was going on. The noise was coming from the edge of the woods and it wasn’t a neighbor with a hammer at all, it was four pileated woodpeckers looking for a meal. The main noisemaker was the adult male who was banging away on a tree trunk that had fallen to the ground many, many years ago. He was perched on top of the trunk and a young male was a few feet away on the ground watching his dad go to work. An adult female and another youngster (I couldn’t tell the gender) were working on the trunks of nearby standing trees.

Twice, the adult male found an insect or worm and stretched its neck toward the youngster to offer the morsel. The youngster, of course, accepted. The daddy pileated woodpecker worked its way along the fallen trunk and eventually flew to the nearby trunk where the mother was busy looking for meals. The young male took his father’s place atop the fallen trunk and started pounding some holes of his own. I couldn’t tell if he was successful or not, but he certainly learned a thing or two by watching his parents at work.

Male and female pileated woodpeckers have red heads. Only males have the red “mustache” extending from the bill.

Here’s one of the adult feeding the youngster. I was a fair distance away and didn’t want to get closer and risk breaking up the family group, hence the poor quality of the photo.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A pileated woodpecker feeds a youngster, Danbury, Conn., summer 2019.
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