On a cold day by Maryland's Monocacy Scenic River in late December,a cak-cak-cak call drew my attention to a piliated woodpecker with its scarlet crest foraging in the river bank trees.The pileated,at 18" in average length,is the largest woodpecker considered to be established in North America.At the same time,the US Fish&Wildlife Service has published a comprehensive recovery plan for the rare ivory-billed woodpecker,which,at 20" in average length,is the largest species of woodpecker that is possibly present on the continent.
Although additional evidence beyond that presented in the early years of the 21st century,which consisted of a much-debated video,sightings and auditory evidence,supports the hypothesis that the ivory-billed continues to exist in the Big Woods of Eastern Arkansas and other parts of the range,due to the inability to reliably locate birds,we cannot at this time conclude that a population of ivory-billed woodpeckers is established in this region,USFWS said.All the same,enough evidence exists that the USFWS continues the habitat conservation and restoration efforts for the Ivory-billed already underway in Eastern Arkansas,and stands ready to do more pending receipt of further evidence.*
The piliated woodpecker,compelling enough at 18" long,requires a minimum of 100-200 acres of contiguous forest for its nesting,roosting and feeding in dead or dying trees,stumps and logs.Primarily an insectivore,this big woodpecker also samples fruits and nuts such as wild grapes,cherries and acorns.They will eat suet from feeders as well.Mating for life and sharing all nesting and work and rearing of young,they are cavity nesters and also drill distinctive holes for roosting and feeding.The roosting holes are especially noticeable,being a group of several oblong holes that provide multiple escape exits.The holes of the piliated are used by more than 50 other forest species,including wood ducks;flying squirrels;owls;bluebirds;and pine martens.
The pileated woodpecker ranges from the Gulf States up the East Coast and west to the Midwest and West Coast,and then across the southern half of Canada in mixed deciduous,transition and boreal forests.