A few weeks ago I caught out of the corner of my eye, a fairly big flash of black and red whisking across the yard outside of the living room but as I rushed to the window, it was gone. I could swear, I could imagine that it just might be the pileated woodpecker for I am now living in his territory, and that might not be a cause for hilarity, enlightenment or unmitigated excitement if you’re not a “birdie”, but trust me, the pileated woodpecker is a sight to behold and a rare one indeed. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines pileate as “having a crest extending from bill to the nape.”
It is the bird deluxe, about which my copy of Bird Watcher’s Digest – Enjoying Woodpeckers More, states – “This is THE woodpecker in the eyes of many; the sight of a pileated often triggers an exclamation that is its common name in much of the country: GOOD GOD!”
Which might very well have something to do with the great Thor, god of thunder and lighting who has traditionally been associated with the woodpecker. They both have flaming red heads, for one, and while Thor wields his magnificent hammer, Mjolnir, sending bolts of lightning to strike mighty trees on earth, the pileated hammers in his own way, excavating for carpenter ants and extracting large nesting holes. Or it just might be because of the pileated’s size, beauty and overall impressiveness.
My first brief glimpse had been too fleeting for any surety, but yesterday as we were having lunch, T.M. exclaimed – “What’s that big bird out there?” and yes, Dryocopus pileatus was indeed swinging on the suet feeder. He didn’t munch long enough for me to retrieve the camera and so I am forced to post a picture from the guide, but he stayed long enough for me to cry out “GOOD GOD!” and fully appreciate his 16 inch frame.
The first picture in the bird book is of a female and our visitor looked just as grand except that as a male he (like the second picture) also sported a red mustache, if not a carpenter ant. The guide also states that he is nonmigratory, monogamous and most likely a permanent resident, that he likes ornamental berries (lots of those here) and the fruit of the sumac (check) and suet (no problem). I hope he likes Mt. Faith too.