I think the poor bird looks like it has mistakenly employed
the Heat Miser as its stylist. Talk about bad hair day!
The Pileated Woodpecker, Dryocopus pileatus, is Indiana's largest woodpecker. It is sixteen and a half inches in length, almost the size of a crow. It's size, sleek black back and wings, offset by a red crest, are obvious field marks. The males have a characteristic red "mustache", which is actually a stripe near the beak. The female's stripe is black. Another distinct field mark is the large white area under its wing which is viewed when the bird is in flight.
Male Pileated Woodpecker, photo by John Howard. Note the red "mustache".
Many a birder have quibbled over how to pronounce "pileated". Some lean toward "PIE-lee-ate-ed", while others say "PILL-ee-ate-ed". Actually, both pronunciations are accepted. Its disputed common name comes from the brilliant scarlet crest of feathers on the top of its head, called a pileum (PIE-lee-um). As a side note, in Ancient Rome, a pileus was a brimless felt hat worn by slaves that were freed by their master. The genus name, Dryocopus means "oak tree cutter", with druos meaning "oak tree" and kopos meaning "cutter".
Pileated Woodpeckers are known for the large holes or excavations they produce while foraging for food and producing their nest cavities. The holes can be greater than a foot in length. They have even been known to break smaller trees in half! They are searching for carpenter ants and wood-dwelling beetles, a favorite snack. During their quest, they produce large holes that are relied upon by many mammals, birds, and reptiles for shelter and nesting. They also will eat fruit and nuts.
Though Pileated Woodpeckers are not in any imminent danger, there is reason for concern. Pileated Woodpeckers rely heavily on big trees for their nest cavities. They prefer large dead trees within mature forests. With many areas losing large trees due to disease and clear-cutting, one should watch his species closely. Since so many other creatures depend upon this bird for survival, it would be devasting, if it was lost.
Pileated Woodpeckers will frequent feeders near a large woods. My friend, Andrew Mertz, has a feeding station right outside his patio door where as many as three Pileated Woodpeckers have been viewed at the same time. What is so surprising is Andrew lives in a apartment complex on the north side of Indianapolis, near the Castleton Mall!