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Pilated Woodpecker
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Pilated Woodpecker

Stalking the Elusive

I like Woodpeckers!  The Pileated Woodpecker has been a very elusive bird species for me to capture.  In the area where I live I have access to over 20,000 acres of mostly forested land and yes there are many local species of Woodpeckers to be photographed.  As most woodpeckers the Pileated seem very adverse to humans, and will take flight once the bird spots a human in the area.  The only times I have encountered the Pileated Woodpecker was by chance with me standing undercover and not moving.  

I realize like most great bird photographs - patience is key. I have had good shots with simple equipment and bad shots with expensive equipment. What matters most is getting the bird to come in close - or, you survey the area, take time to find their feeding spots, get in early and wait them out.  That is exactly what I did to get these three images.

Over the course of several days, I would hear the Pileated calls off in the nearby forest and would on occasions catch a glimpse of his mo-hawk red hair darting around the trees he visited but never close enough for a good shot. 

On a cold bright early fall morning I went to the spot I knew this bird had been in the week prior, found a tree with "pot" marks then I placed myself in the brush and waited, and waited, and waited - finally he showed up.  Of course, he was on the other side of the tree. Holding my breath and double checking my equipment, he finally climbed around to the sunny side - I got three images before he noticed me and took off.

We all have a bird we desire to better understand and photograph, for me the Pileated Woodpecker is one of those species. The Pileated seem to be very energetic and smart with a personality to match.

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  • Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 ED FL VR
  • Nikkor 600mm f/4 FL ED VR
Camera Body
  • Nikon D500
  • Nikon D810
Accessories Used
  • TC-17 II


I live at the edge of the forest in semi-moist locations, I enjoy larva, and other delights. Although I am toothless and mostly warty, I am a sight to see.

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