After decades of watching birds there aren't many that will make me drop what I'm doing and stare.  A low-flying trumpeter swan will.  A flushing rooster, with all his high-def color, will.  And the elusive, seldom-seen pileated woodpecker will.

This one in the photo is a yearling.  About two-thirds the size he will reach at full maturity.  He's already crow in size.  The vivid, showy headdress and stark yellow eyes are pretty arresting.  To get this close with a camera is fairly rare.  The pileated are quite shy.  They hop around the opposite side of a tree when they see you and then sneak a peek to see if you're still watching.  They are drawn to feeders by the activity of other birds.  This one sat off in the distance for ten minutes checking for security.  But the fresh suet was too tempting to stay away.

I have seen what I assume are this guy's parents nearby.  They hang out in a large hard-wood grove across the road from my place.  But they weren't with him today, evidently having abandoned him to carry on without them.

On a still day you can hear a pileated call a long ways.  They always sound off when in their looping flight.  The other give-away sound they make is their jack-hammering attack of dead trees, looking, in winter, for hibernating insects.  I have watched a pileated excavate a volly-ball-sized cavity in a matter of minutes, hunks of dead wood flying in all directions.  On the East Coast, their primary range, they are known by the nickname log cocks.

I'm hoping this welcome visitor remembers where there is a supply of suet.


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