Thunk, Thunk, Thunk-thunk echoed from a tree along the river, and then it stopped. Thunk, Thunk-thunk, Thunk it began again. And there on a branch, was a pileated woodpecker hammering away at the limb. It was a female with her black “mustache”. She kept working on the branch for a while, then flew to the trunk of a nearby tree, but never gave a clear view or moved completely out of the shadows.
More thunking sounded from a tree closer than the one on which the female landed. This emanated from a male (bearing the red “mustache” sported by male pileateds), leading to the conclusion that this was almost certainly a mated pair.
He was feeding at a limb on a riverside silver maple, rapidly gulping insects as he extracted them from the wood –
Carpenter ants, which live in both live and dead trees, are a favorite food of pileated woodpeckers. In watching the video of this male he certainly seemed to be feeding on ants –
Pileated woodpeckers are usually quite wary, but this bird was so preoccupied with his meal that he ignored me as I turned and slowly walked away.