The pileated woodpecker is monogamous and territorial, and, as it is a non-migratory bird, pairs will defend their large territory year-round (2) (3). Only when one of the pair dies will the other find a new mate, which it then allows to move into its territory (2) (3). Pileated woodpecker pairs occasionally allow non-breeding adults within their territory (2) (3), although this is more frequent during the winter (3). To defend their territory, the pair will use vocalisations and drumming, as well as chasing, striking with twigs and poking the intruder with their bills during conflicts (2).
During the breeding season, the male pileated woodpecker selects a nest site and builds most of the nest, which is an oblong cavity in a tree lined with the shavings of wood that are produced during excavation. The nest can take up to six weeks to create (2) (3) (4). The excavations of the pileated woodpecker are made using its long, powerful bill, which is repeatedly drummed on the trunk of a dead tree to create an entrance hole into the hollow interior. The pileated woodpecker creates distinctive, rectangular holes which can be over 60 centimetres deep and are used for roosting and nesting (2) (3). The pileated woodpecker is an extremely important part of the forest ecosystem, as its excavations also provide shelter for many other species, including swifts, owls, bats and pine martens (2) (3).
The female pileated woodpecker lays one clutch per breeding season, with four eggs being most common, although the clutch can range between one and six eggs. The eggs are white and slightly glossy (2), and are incubated for 15 to 18 days by both the male and female, after which both sexes alternately feed the young in the nest for the next 24 to 28 days (2) (3). After three to five months, the young leave the adults, but do not venture far from the natal territory (2).
In addition to excavating holes for nest and roosting sites, the pileated woodpecker will drill holes into trees to gain access to its wood-boring insect prey, which includes carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.), termites, beetle larvae and other insects (2) (3) (4). The pileated woodpecker’s long, barbed tongue is used to extract its prey from the wood (3). This species also feeds on wild nuts and fruit (2) (3) (4).