Pileated Woodpecker Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat. What is that sound you hear coming from the woods? It just might be a pileated woodpecker! Read this lesson to find out all about these large North American woodpeckers.

What's That Noise?

One day, as you're sitting in your backyard, you hear a very loud hammering sound. It sounds as if someone is drumming on a hollow log, right near where you're sitting. Then, you hear a very loud shrieking noise. What can be making all this racket? You might be lucky and have a pileated woodpecker living nearby!

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated (pronounced ''PIL-ee-ay-ted'') woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers in North America. When full grown, their bodies are from 16 to 19 inches long, and when they spread their wings, they're about 26 to 30 inches from tip to tip. That's over two feet! Adult pileated woodpeckers usually weigh about 9 to 12 ounces, which is about the same weight as a regular size can of soup. Why are they making all that racket in your yard? Let's find out!

Ants and Beetles

Pileated woodpeckers live where there are lots of trees. They're not fussy about what kind of trees; what they look for are tree stumps or trees that have fallen or have rotting branches. The pileated woodpecker loves to eat ants, termites and beetles; it uses its long beak to dig deeply into the wood to catch its dinner. Their beaks are almost as long as their heads; these pointy beaks let them make holes in wood and tear off bark so that they can find food.

Pileated Woodpecker

You can tell when there's been a pileated woodpecker hammering on a tree; they leave large square holes where their strong beaks have hammered against the tree over and over again as they catch bugs to eat. Sometimes they make such large holes in a tree that the tree breaks in half! If we hammered against something hard as much as they do, our brains would probably turn to mush. Pileated woodpeckers have reinforced necks and skulls so that all the hammering doesn't harm their brains.

Pileated woodpeckers are omnivores, or animals that eat both plants and other animals. In addition to insects, pileated woodpeckers eat berries, fruit, and nuts.

A Bright Red Crest

There are many types of woodpeckers. How do you know if the one in your yard is a pileated woodpecker? As you've already read, it's a very large bird. The word ''pileated'' means that it has a large crest on top of its head. The pileated woodpecker has a triangle-shaped, bright red tuft of feathers on its head. Its head is striped black and white, like a zebra, and it has a very long, pointy bill.

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