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Monday, October 7, 2013

A Pileated sighting

I rarely, as in almost never, see Pileated Woodpeckers in my yard or even around my yard any more. Several years ago, before all the houses were built in the area and when there were still plenty of dead trees standing in the woods behind our house, I used to see more of them. But now there are houses everywhere and fewer trees and all of the dead trees have been removed. And the Pileateds seldom visit any more.

I still hear them calling occasionally in the neighborhood, particularly in the direction of Spring Creek to the south. Usually they are quite some distance away but those voices do resonate!

Today, while I was sitting in my backyard, I heard one of the big woodpeckers - biggest in North America, assuming the Ivory-billed really is extinct - calling down toward the creek. A few minutes passed, and then I heard him a lot closer. A few more minutes passed, and my peripheral vision picked up a large bird flying into the old magnolia tree in my backyard. I turned to look. The bird was mostly hidden by the leathery leaves of the tree, but there was no doubt - it was the Pileated!

If there had been any doubt, it would have been removed a moment later when the bird loudly announced his presence.

There must have been something of interest in the tree, because he spent several minutes - maybe ten - going up and down the trunk and poking at the bark. Then, he flew again, this time to one of my neighbor's big pine trees. Wonderful bird! Having him in my yard even for a few minutes made my day.

Incidentally, the mispronunciation of this bird's name by people who should know better always bugs me, and it seems to be becoming more common, so I guess I can prepare to be permanently bugged. The correct pronunciation (following the standard rules of English pronunciation) is "pile-e-ated" - long "i" in the first syllable. You can look it up. But very often you will hear it pronounced "pill-e-ated." Well, as Mrs. Rubinstein taught me long, long ago, that is just wrong! I'm sure the bird would be offended to hear its name mispronounced, so don't be guilty of it.    


  1. Seeing as how I've never heard the name pronounced (and always just see it written), I always said in my head Pie-lee-ate-ed

    1. Well, if you had occasion to say it out loud and said it just like that, you would be 100% correct and you wouldn't bug me at all!

  2. I love that bird! We see them often in our front yard. I'm with Katina; I do pronounce it correctly but have never heard anyone else say it. Visitors usually say something along the lines of "that's one big woodpecker!" :)

    1. I've been to talks by ornithologists where the bird's name is pronounced with the short "i" and it always sets my teeth on edge!