The pileated woodpecker has a long chisel-like beak and red crest that swoops off the back of its head and is about the size of a crow. It can be found in Iowa at the far eastern edge of the state in forests with many standing dead trees and large dead logs such as our Whitetail Ridge. They drill very distinctive rectangular holes to get to their favorite meal which is carpenter ants. This large woodpecker's nest differs slightly from those of others because of the shape of the entrance, which is oblong instead of circular.
The abandoned nest holes provide shelter and housing for other animal species such as wood ducks, owls, bats and swifts. Interestingly, this breed is monogamous, so if a mate dies the remaining one takes on a new mate, which is the main way new birds get a chance to breed. The second largest woodpecker in the United States, the pileated woodpecker is on the the critically endangered and possibly extinct list. “It’s big, and really striking when you see this rare bird,” says Colleen Koss, President/CEO of Wishes For Wildlife Foundation.