Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker Dryocopus pileatusDryocopus pileatus

The “log-god”, “Indian hen”, “woodchuck” or “cock-of-the-woods”, is more formally called Pileated Woodpecker and is very familiar to hunters, fishermen and people that roam the woods (Lowery 1974).  It has one of the loudest and most distinctive bird voices of the eastern forests.  The loud “kuk-kuk–kukkuk-kuk-kuk calls and drumming can frequently be heard during spring and summer near their nesting territories.  This crow-sized woodpecker is a permanent resident of mature, dense forests (Bock and Lepthien 1975).  It primarily occurs in eastern and northwestern United States and southern Canada (DeGraaf et al. 1991).

Pileateds are primary cavity excavators (Evans and Conner 1979) and actively defend territories around these cavities (Kilham 1959, 1973).  Territories range in size from 43 ha (Tanner 1942) to 70 ha (Kilham 1976) in southern deciduous- coniferous forests, to as much as 450 ha in northwestern coniferous forest (Mellen 1987).  They primarily forage for invertebrates in dead trees, logs and tree stumps (Conner & Crawford 1974).

DISTRIBUTION:  This species is fairly common locally to uncommon in wooded portions of eastern third of Texas, west casually to Gainesville and Fort Worth, rarely to Bastrop and Palmetto State Park, south irregularly to Victoria (Oberholser and Kincaid 1974).  TBBAP data gathered since Oberholser and Kincaid (1974) indicates that this species’ range has shrunken.  The southern boundary moved northward to Jackson County, the southwestern has stayed the same and the northwest has moved eastward to Hunt County.

SEASONAL OCCURRENCE:  Permanent resident in most of its range with occasional wandering reported outside after breeding season.  Most nesting occurs from 27 March – 21 May (Oberholser and Kincaid 1974).  The four “nest-with-young” TBBAP records were from 29 April through 25 May.

BREEDING HABITAT:  Highest densities in Texas typically occur in mature, bottomland hardwood forests (Oberholser and Kincaid 1974), and in mature coniferous-deciduous woodlands of the National Forests in Texas.  They prefer woodlands near water throughout its range (DeGraaf et al. 1991).  Their territory size may be inversely related to log and stump volume, and canopy cover within territories (Renken and Wiggers 1989).

STATUS:  Even though over 60% of the original estimated bottomland and riparian vegetation (the preferred Pileated Woodpecker habitat) occurring in Texas has been lost (Frye 1987), and the pileateds range appears to have marginally shrunk, the species’ population appears to be currently stable.  U.S. National Biological Service breeding bird survey data from 1967-1994 in Texas indicate that the Pileated Woodpecker population has been stable during this period (Bruce Peterjohn, pers. comm.).  The species occurred on 17 24.5-mile breeding bird survey routes with an average density of 1.2 birds per route.

Text by Brent Ortego (ca. 1994)

Texas Bird Breeding Atlas Map

Literature Cited

Bock, C., and L. Lepthien.  1975.  A Christmas count analysis of woodpecker abundance in the United States.  Wilson Bull: 87:355-366.

Conner, R .N., and H. S. Crawford.  1974.  Woodpecker foraging in Appalachian clearcuts.   J. For. 72:564-566.

DeGraaf, R. M., V. E. Scott, R. H. Hamre, L. Ernst, and S. H. Anderson.  1991.  Forest and rangeland birds of the United States natural history and habitat use.  U.S.D.A. Agric. Handb. 688.

Evans, K. E., and R. N. Conner.  1979.  Shag management, p. 214-225. In Proceedings of the workshop, management of north central and northeastern forests for nongame birds.  U.S.D.A., U.S. Forest Serv. Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-51.

Frye, R. G. 1987.  Bottomland hardwoods–current supply, status, habitat quality and future impacts from reservoirs.  pp. 24-28 In C. A. McMahan and R. G. Frye (eds.).  Bottomland hardwoods in Texas.  Texas Parks and Wildl. Dept. PWD-RP-7100-133-3187.

Kilam, L.  1959.  Behavior and methods of communication of Pileated Woodpeckers.  Condor 61:377-387.

Kilam, L.  1973.  Unusual attack of intruding male on a nesting pari of Pileated Woodpeckers.  Condor 75:349-350.

Kilham, L.  1976.  Winter foraging and associated behavior of Pileated Woodpeckers in Georgia and Florida.  Auk 93:15-24.

Lowery, G. H., Jr.  1974.  Louisiana birds. Louisiana Wild Life and Fisheries Comm., Louisiana State Univ. Press, Baton Rouge.

Mellen, T. K.  1987.  Home range and habitat use of Pileated Woodpeckers, western Oregon.  M.S. Thesis, Oregon State Univ., Corvallis.

Oberholser,   H. C., and E. B. Kincaid.  1974.  The bird life of Texas.  University of Texas Press, Austin.

Renken, R. B., and E. P. Wiggers.  1989.  Forest characteristics related to Pileated Woodpecker territory size in Missouri.  Condor 91:642-652.

Tanner, J. T.  1942.  The Ivory-billed Woodpecker.  Natl. Audubon Soc. Res. Rep. 1.

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