Ben here with the first photo from last Monday's VMNH Christmas bird count!

Ben here with the first photo from last Monday's VMNH Christmas bird count!

Ben here with the first photo from last Monday's VMNH Christmas bird count! The pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) is one of my absolute favorite birds. Unfortunately, the picture isn't great due to a combination of low light and my inherent skills as a photographer, but the pileated woodpecker is cool enough to highlight anyway!

Pileated woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers in the U.S., though are possibly slightly smaller than the ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), which is either critically endangered or more likely extinct. These woodpeckers are about the same size as crows, and they can be recognized by the triangular red crest on the tops of their heads. Unlike some woodpeckers, the females also have this red crest. The males can be distinguished by an additional red stripe on the cheek.

Pileated woodpeckers can be found throughout the eastern portion of the U.S., across much of Canada, and in parts of the west coast. They prefer large tracts of forest with mature hardwood trees, but unlike the more specialized ivory-billed woodpecker, pileateds are pretty adaptable and will even show up in small woodlots if the trees are tall enough. They mainly eat ants and wood-boring beetle larvae, and they leave distinct rectangular holes in trees when foraging for insects. They make their nests in large cavities in dead trees.

Unfortunately, there's no reliable way to attract pileated woodpeckers beyond leaving dead trees standing on your property. However, they have been reported to visit suet feeders during particularly harsh winters, so keep an eye peeled! #BenInNature

ABOUT #BenInNature
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends.

You've seen the posts. You've learned the facts. Now, it's time to prove you are a #BenInNature Mega Fan! The museum's education team has developed the #BenInNature Trivia Challenge to identify the most devoted fans out there! Everyone who successfully answers each trivia question correctly will be congratulated by having your own nature selfie posted to the museum's #BenInNature Mega Fan Photo Album on the official VMNH Facebook page! Learn more and download the trivia challenge today by visiting

If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!

map of Virginia and surrounding areas

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