Imagine seeing one of the biggest back yard birds drinking water out of the pond right outside your window. This enormous fellow came to sip water, peck curiously at the cedar deck and then feed at the suet column. Pileated woodpeckers are the largest species of woodpecker in North America. They would be second to the ivory billed woodpecker, although sadly, it is now believed to be extinct. The pileated is a giant bird that feeds on insects burrowed into rotting trees and logs. It uses its keen sense of hearing to detect grubs and beets beneath the wood. Once it locates its prey, it hammers with its powerful beak to uncover and devour the insects. They actually play a vital role in the health of many forests, keeping the population of destructive insects in check. A pileated woodpecker can be heard for miles as it beats loudly on hollow trees to announce its presence and dominance to other woodpeckers. They are territorial and this display is meant to keep rivals from entering their feeding or breeding area. A pileated woodpecker grows to an incredible 49cm in height (19inches). It is a heavy bird, weighing up to 300g (2/3 lb). They are also known to eat fruits and berries, including the berries of the poison ivy plant. They will also eat ants in large quantities when the colonies are found in dead trees. The nest of the pileated is constructed by hammering out large holes in dead trees. The male makes a nest and this attracts a female where they will work together to raise their young. The nests are not used twice and the large cavities often become a shelter for other birds and woodland animals, such as owls. This also plays a beneficial role in the health of forests. Pileated woodpeckers are a welcome sight at back yard bird feeders such as this one. They love suet cakes that are filled with nuts and seeds. Their large size and bright plumage make them a delightful sight for bird enthusiasts and photographers. This videographer placed a GoPro camera on a pole right beside the suet feeder in his back yard and he was fortunate enough to capture this large male paying a visit. Providing food for local birds can make a great difference to their survival, especially when harsh conditions make it more difficult to find food.
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