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Ivory-billed Woodpecker
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Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

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Pileated Woodpecker (male) Pileated Woodpecker (male) © Wayne Wendel

Family:  (Picidae) Woodpeckers

Preferred Habitat:   Old growth woodlands.

Seasonal Occurrence:  Common permanent resident.

Notes:   The Pileated Woodpecker is a large, crow-sized woodpecker, with brilliant red crest. Both sexes have the red crest and white neck stripe, but only the male has a red forehead and mustache. Pileated Woodpeckers require large trees both for nesting and for the insects, such as Carpenter ants, they provide. Tall dead tree snags are especially important for nesting cavities. Despite development, Houston has enough areas with tall trees that Pileated Woodpeckers are fairly common, even in city parks and suburbs. Their loud, ringing calls may be heard throughout Houston. The Houston Bird Survey has more information and a distribution map.

Ivory-bill or Pileated?

Every year Houston Audubon receives calls about possible sightings of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. After the rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the spring of 2005, this has become particularly common. For those new to birding, the two woodpeckers look confusingly alike. The easiest distinguishing mark for the Ivory-bill is its large white wing patches on the upper surface of its wings. Both woodpeckers display large white areas on the underneath surface, but for Pileated Woodpeckers the upper wing surface is black with only a touch of white on the side. Ivory-bills have much longer, whiter bills and also are larger in size. Finally, we recommend that anyone who sees what he is convinced is an Ivory-bill to document the bird by photographing it. Cornell Lab of Ornithology story of the Rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker
- Susan Billetdeaux

Pileated Woodpecker (female) Pileated Woodpecker (female) © David McDonald


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