Feb 17 2015
Sometimes you can tell who drilled a hole just by looking at it.
This one caught my eye at Raccoon Creek State Park. I can tell by its big, rectangular shape that it was made by a pileated woodpecker.
Pileated woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) are the size of crows, mostly black with white on their necks and faces, white on their wings (seen in flight) and a red crest. Males, like the one below, have red foreheads and mustaches where the females are black.
These are huge woodpeckers! And so are their holes. Here’s a closer look.
As you can see, the hole is oblong — about 9″ tall by 3.5″ wide — and hollow inside. The male chooses the site and excavates the interior, gathering wood chips in his beak and throwing them out the “door.” Eventually his mate helps, too. It takes them 3-6 weeks to finish a new nest hole each spring.
They only use the nest for one season, but nothing goes to waste. Pileated woodpeckers stay on territory all year long and use their old holes for roosting at night. They usually roost alone but on cold winter nights like these “Ma” and “Pa” may roost together to stay warm.
Maybe even in this hole.
(photos of woodpecker hole by Kate St. John. photo of pileated woodpecker in Cumberland County, PA by Dick Martin, 2009.)