Downy woodpeckers (male) (Picoides pubescens) often roam wider from forest habitats in winter. Frederick County is in the middle of the Canada to Florida range of this common, native small woodpecker. They are often heard or seen in winter, as they range into suburban areas and forage deeper into dead trees to find hidden insects and larva with a characteristic drum roll. Their call is resembles a metallic shriek.
The 6- to 7-inch bird is black and white, with the males a little larger and displaying a red patch on the back of the head that is not present on females. A social bird, the downy woodpecker will approach feeders along with other small, overwintering birds such as chickadees and nuthatches.
Pileated woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) are the largest woodpeckers we see in local forests. They excavate rectangular-shaped holes in trees in pursuit of insects. Adults are about 18 inches in length, with a bright red crest on the top of the head. Both males and females have a black body with white stripes on the sides of the neck and head. Males have additional red areas on the front of the crown of the head and on the sides of the cheek or upper throat.
Since the undersides of the wings are white, they may appear to have white wings as they fly overhead. They mate for life, and a mated pair stays together to raise its brood, defending their territory. The male pileated woodpecker excavates a new rectangular-shaped nesting cavity each year. Abandoned cavities are often used by other birds or animals for shelter and nesting.
Their loud, rapid drumming can bring to mind a jackhammer. The pileated woodpecker cackling or chuckling call doesn't just seem louder in winter because the leaves are down; it is louder, but quiets down when mating season arrives in early spring.
Article by FCFCDB
Nature Notes for 12/12/2010