The Pileated Woodpecker is the giant among North American woodpeckers. It weighs ten ounces or over, while the little downy barely reaches one ounce. It is a magnificent bird, nearly the size of a crow and nearly as black, but adorned with with a flaming scarlet crest and showing, in flight, great white patches in the wings. The typical woodpecker flight is a succession of deep undulations, but the pileated progresses on an almost level course, rather slowly, with occasional periods of sailing. The pileated feeds largely on ants, mainly carpenter ants which enter from the roots of those trees with decayed hearts. The great square holes, cut through the live wood near the ground in forest trees, are the work of this bird in its effort to reach the ants in the interior. Many grubs and borers are also eaten, the sticky tongue being equipped with both a barbed and spear like tip.
Nests are usually excavated in the dead stubs of living trees, usually where the trunk is 15 to 20 inches in diameter. Hardwood species such as beeches, poplars, birches, oaks, and hickories are used.
The Birds of Minnesota
Thomas Sandler Roberts 1938