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At last, a pileated woodpecker came to visit and stayed long enough for me to get a few photographs with my camera. I apologize for the poor quality of the photos but it is difficult getting a vibrant shot on a very grey day… especially when one is indoors and photographing through a window! Until I get a proper zoom lens, quietly and patiently waiting at the dining room window is a strategy that gets me closer to many of these shy and elusive birds than I might otherwise get.

I love pileated woodpeckers- they are definitely one of my favorite birds and not because I grew up watching Woody Woodpecker! They are just such unusual birds with their ‘punk rocker hair’, and their huge size gives them a presence that demands respect. I also like their call, which to me sounds like a monkey in the jungle. Often in the summer when I am gardening I will hear one long before I spot him/her in a nearby tree.

pileated woodpeckerPileated woodpeckers are Alberta’s largest woodpecker. According to my Field Guide to Alberta’s Birds, they prefer “older, mature, dense canopied forests, particularly mixed and deciduous woods where there are large, dead or dying trees for nesting. They are rarely found in burns or areas of downed timber.”

Pileated woodpeckers can be seen all year round in Alberta. Although their population is considered stable, they are on the Alberta’s Yellow List as their preferred habitat of old growth forests is deteriorating.

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This unique bird is one that can never be confused with another here in Alberta. It’s unique head shape, size and striking colors set it apart from other Albertan woodpeckers. Once you’ve seen your first one, you may find yourself hooked and searching the forests for another encounter. These are truly magnificent birds!

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McGillivray, W. B., & Semechuk, G. P. (1998). The Federation of Alberta Naturalists Field Guide to Alberta Birds. Edmonton, AB: The Federation of Alberta Naturalists.