BEDFORD, N.Y. — A woodpecker the size of a crow — the largest kind of North American Woodpecker — was spotted by a resident in Bedford recently.
Known as the Pileated Woodpecker, it is distinctive because it is all black with a red crown and white markings. It was spotted hovering around a tree but then it flew away. Several days later it was back and it was pecking a hole in that very same tree. It appeared to peck intermittently and kept looking around.
Even though Pileated Woodpeckers are famous for doing considerable damage to trees, they control many insect populations. They eat carpenter ants and wood-boring beetle larvae in addition to fruits, nuts and berries. They use their long tongues to reach into tree crevices to lap up ants.
Once they carve out these holes, in addition to feeding, they prepare future nests. In April, the hole made by the male attracts a female for mating. Once the brood is raised, the Pileated Woodpeckers abandon the hole and will not use it again.
Once abandoned, these holes provide homes for song birds, owls and tree-nesting ducks. Even raccoons may use them. Other woodpeckers and smaller birds such as wrens may be attracted to Pileated holes to feed on the insects too.
Ecologically, the entire woodpecker family is important to the well-being of other bird species. Pileated Woodpeckers are non-migratory.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.