Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Pileated Woodpecker - Dryocopus pileatus
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General Comments The Pileated Woodpecker is, by far, the largest and most spectacular woodpecker left still alive in the United States, if the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is extinct. And, even though it requires large trees for drilling a nest cavity and for foraging, remarkably it has remained relatively numerous in its range, and perhaps is even becoming slightly more numerous than in previous decades. As with the Red-shouldered Hawk and the Barred Owl, this denizen of extensive and often moist forests has adapted to wooded residential areas, to a point, and it is not uncommon to see Pileated Woodpeckers at bird feeders in the winter. It is strictly non-migratory and is found year-round in mature hardwood or mixed forests, preferably in bottomlands/swamps, but it also is found in upland forests, as well.
Breeding Status Breeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S5
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Permanent resident; essentially non-migratory. Except along some barrier islands (where rare to absent), generally fairly common, to common in some bottomlands and swamps (especially in brownwater systems such as the Roanoke River). Peak counts: ?
Piedmont Permanent resident; essentially non-migratory. Uncommon to fairly common throughout. Least numerous (uncommon at best) in some of the more heavily populated counties. Peak counts: ?
Mountains Permanent resident; essentially non-migratory, though there is a downward movement from higher elevations in winter. Fairly common over most of the region, but uncommon as a breeder over 5,000 feet. Peak counts: ?
Finding Tips Your best bet is to visit preserves in a floodplain, such as Howell Woods in Johnston, or canoeing along a river such as the Roanoke or Lumber. However, a full day of birding in most areas of the state should turn up the species, though often only a distant bird calling (and not seen).
Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-23], LeGrand[2012-07-14], LeGrand[2011-12-10]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.