Easily recognizable by its size and coloring, the pileated woodpecker measures in at up to 50 cm, with a wingspan up to 75 cm and a weight of up to 350 grams. The pileated woodpecker is nearly as large as a crow. It has a mostly black body with a large red crest on the head. It has some white stripes on its body, running from the face down to the neck. Its wings are also mostly black with some white linings. Its throat has some white as well.
The pileated woodpecker has a thick silver-gray bill which it uses to make rectangular holes in trees. Its eyes are yellow while its legs and feet are a grayish black. Male and female birds are similar in appearance. The male, however, has some red stripes in the face while the female has none. Juvenile birds differ from the adults in that they have brown eyes and shorter crests.
Pileated woodpeckers nest in cavities in trees. They prefer to excavate new nest holes each year in a dead tree or branch. Digging up a nest hole can take up to six weeks. The nest of the pileated woodpecker is basically the cavity they have created. Except for some wood chips, the nest remains unlined. These wood chips come from the dead tree or branch they made the hole in.
Pileated woodpeckers mate for life. A pair stays together throughout the whole year. They are territorial and tend to stay in their established territory for long periods of time. During the breeding season, the pileated woodpecker will fiercely defend its territory. However, during the winter, it can tolerate a few birds who are traveling through the territory.
Pileated woodpeckers diet consists mainly of insects. although they also eat fruits and nuts. To find their food, they make holes in trees and logs. They also strip off the bark to expose the ants underneath.