A pair of pileated woodpeckers are currently nesting in a big sycamore on the island directly across the channel from the cottage. Their nest entrance, an elongated oval hole, is located approximately 40 feet up. It's about the size and shape of your two fists held one atop the other.
Every so often, one bird or the other comes flapping over to check things around around the house. That's what the male pileated in the close-up photos is doing. He's investigating a couple of old stumps I've rolled into the dooryard to use as bird-feeding platforms during the winter. Apparently he found a supply of tasty grubs or bugs of some sort, because he poked about for several minutes, whacking away like a deranged lumberjack.
Pileateds are probably the largest woodpecker in North America. I say probably because the ivory billed, if not now extinct, is actually slightly larger. But the crow-sized pileated is still huge. Which is why lots of country folks—especially down South—are apt to call them Lord God birds. As in "Lord, God! Look at the size of that woodpecker!"
They are, indeed, simply astonishing. I see them every day, and have been around pileateds much of my life, yet I'm still nearly dumbfounded by their outrageous size. Words simply fail in doing justice to the actuality of seeing one of these giant woodpeckers hanging upside-down on a suet feeder.
But not just big, and certainly not cute…menacingly spectacular!
They look like a cross between Count Dracula and a pterodactyl, outfitted in what might be an old KISS costume. Between that hair-trigger psycho look in their yellow eyes, and the lethal bill, if I were any bird smaller than an eagle, I know I'd leave the pileated alone.
Still, every time I see a pileated, I'm saddened a bit. Not because I don't enjoy them immensely, and welcome their frequent visits, but because I keep hoping for that unlikely miracle—news of a genuine, confirmed ivory bill sighting. Whereupon, sizewise, old mister pileated will promptly and firmly be relegated to second place—a humbling experience that might just do him some good!