The Bitterroot Pterodactyl: Pileated woodpeckers are a year-around treat for local bird watchers
Image courtesy of Patrick Chaplin

Image courtesy of Patrick Chaplin

Standing nearly 12 inches tall, the largest North American woodpecker is a magnificent bird, one that will capture your attention when offered the opportunity to see or hear it.

The eerie sounding, unmistakable call of a pileated woodpecker in a conifer forest or cottonwood river bottom, is one that ignites a primordial spirit. Looking like a miniature pterodactyl, the Pileated was named for its beautiful red crest that covers the top of its head.

Pileated woodpeckers are predominately black with white streaks below the eye extending down the neck. In flight, the breast and tips of the wings are black with white underwings. Both male and female have similar appearances yet the female is slightly smaller. When observing the two together, the male will have a more brilliant red crest that extends all the way to the beak, whereas the female’s red crest will stop short of the beak.

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Teller Wildlife Refuge