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Changing of the Guard: Pileated Woodpecker Parents Share Parenting Duties

7-1-19 male and female pileated 0U1A0116Recently I had the opportunity to observe nesting Pileated Woodpeckers, and I thought I would devote this week’s Naturally Curious posts to different aspects of my observations. I would like to thank Amber Jones and Dave Bliven for generously sharing their Picidae residents with me.

From start to finish, both Pileated Woodpecker parents are involved in raising their young and all that it entails. Together they excavate a nest cavity, usually in a dead or dying tree. Both have brood patches (areas on their undersides that lack feathers and are well supplied with blood vessels, allowing efficient transfer of body heat to eggs), and both incubate the eggs during the day (the male has night duty). The parents take turns brooding the nestlings and providing them with food. And finally, once fledging take place, both parents provide and help their young find food for several months. (Photo: male Pileated Woodpecker in nest cavity; female Pileated Woodpecker on nesting tree)

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10 responses

  1. Terrific Thanks so much.

    July 1, 2019 at 7:21 am

  2. I have been watching a pair of Downies, from a distance. Both parents are so dedicated to the young. It has been a joy to observe their constant care in feeding and cleaning the nest of the fecal sacs.

    July 1, 2019 at 7:21 am

  3. Diane

    Very interesting. Although I don’t have them in my yard I have been watching 2 young downy try to maneuver the upside down suet feeder.

    July 1, 2019 at 8:08 am

  4. I love the idea of a week-long series on a family of spectacular pileated woodpeckers!

    July 1, 2019 at 8:09 am

    • Hope you’ll still feel that way by Friday, dellwvt!

      July 1, 2019 at 8:02 pm

  5. Alice Pratt

    They both look like they have a smile on their face. Had the babies hatched, yet? (or am I jumping ahead?) They sure have a great beak for excavating & boring for insects.

    July 1, 2019 at 8:17 am

  6. Nice photo. My most memorable encounter with nesting pileateds was on a Roosevelt Is. trail in the Potomac River across from DC. The pair were so preoccupied with dissuading a large and very determined black snake from proceeding across the trail toward their nest tree that they were oblivious to me and my dog watching their maneuvers from a few feet away. With patience, persistence, and a few well-aimed pecks they finally succeeded in sending the snake packing. The drama took a good 10 minutes after we arrived. Never once did the birds acknowledge our presence though I could have reached out and touched them. It was fascinating to watch their coordinated tactics and nonverbal communications.

    July 1, 2019 at 9:03 am

    • Wow! This pair had a scuffle with a gray squirrel family, which they fought off, but only after losing an egg or more to them. How dramatic to see them deal with a snake! I envy you your experience (but not theirs).

      July 1, 2019 at 8:01 pm

  7. Such Beautiful Birds! Love hearing them in the woods! Don’t see them much due to heavy forestation on residential property! But they are there!

    July 2, 2019 at 4:24 am

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