The Pileated Woodpecker is one of many birds that inhabit Florida year-round. They take up residence in mixed woodlands and swamps throughout the state as well as much of the East coast, the South, and well into Canada. The only area in Florida where the Pileated Woodpecker is not found is in the Keys. They are easy to spot thanks to the brilliant red plumage on their heads and the knocking sounds they make when burrowing into trees for their favorite food, carpenter ants. Pileated Woodpeckers find a wide variety of habitats to call home, from forests and woodlands to swamps to suburban areas, and they are the third most common variety of woodpecker in Florida.
The thing these birds are best known for is the rectangular holes that they drill into trees to find ants, larvae, termites, and other insects. Their preferred locales for finding food are usually dead trees or stumps and branches on the forest floor, where many different insects gather. Pileated Woodpeckers have even been known to break small trees in half with their deep drilling. Other birds, including other woodpeckers, are often drawn to the drilling sites of Pileated Woodpeckers when searching for food.
Drilling is also important for Pileated Woodpeckers and their nests. They prefer using large, dead trees for their nest excavation and will create a new nest cavity each year. The male is the primary excavator when a new nest cavity is being made and it takes him around three to six weeks to carve it out. Unlike many other birds, Pileated Woodpeckers don’t line their nests with anything more than a few woodchips.
Thanks to their distinct coloration and sound and their abundant numbers, Pileated Woodpeckers are easy to see. It is rare, however, to see more than two birds at a time in one location. Pileated Woodpeckers are very territorial birds and a monogamous pair can hold a large area of territory, which they occupy throughout the year. This rule is strictest during the breeding season but becomes more relaxed in the winter, when the occasional travelling woodpecker may be tolerated on another bird’s land. Pileated Woodpeckers can be observed in Florida at Mead Gardens, Merritt Island, and Orlando Wetlands Park. They can be seen in many forest areas as well as in cities and suburbs that have a good number of trees.
While the Pileated Woodpecker is numerous and common today, they have faced threats to their survival in the past. Because they rely so heavily on forest coverage, rapid development can cause their numbers to plummet. Thankfully, some forests that have been cut down were allowed to regrow, once again providing homes for the Pileated Woodpeckers.
With its beautiful coloration and incredible architecture, the Pileated Woodpecker is one of the most interesting birds in the animal kingdom. Florida’s diverse habitats make it a perfect place for the Pileated Woodpecker to thrive year-round.