McGILL BIRD OBSERVATORY

PHOTO LIBRARY

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

 Seasonal status at MBO:

JAN
       
FEB
       
MAR
       
APR
       
MAY
       
JUN
       
JUL
       
AUG
       
SEP
       
OCT
       
NOV
       
DEC
       
  common
  fairly common
  uncommon
  rare
  occasional
  no records
 
QUICK TIPS:
1) Sex can be determined by the forehead and malar region - on males they are red, while on females they are black

2) In summer to early fall, check the length of p10 - in juveniles only it extends >24 mm beyond the primary coverts

3) Look for moult limits among the primary coverts:
  
 - in HY/SY birds they are uniform but somewhat paler than the greater coverts
    - in SY/TY birds the outermost 1-5 coverts are fresh and black, while the remainder are uniformly paler brown
    - in ASY/ATY birds they are uniformly fresh and black OR irregularly fresh/black and worn/brown

Note that woodpeckers can be confusing as individuals can be recognized as SY throughout the calendar year, but with different characteristics before/after their prebasic moult; be sure to take the timing of moult (late summer / early fall) into account

Ageing and sexing overview:

January - August:

ATY - M
Primary coverts are an irregular mix of black (fresh), and worn, retained adult feathers OR are uniformly black. Iris deep red. Forehead and crest red.  The malar region has a distinct red stripe.  

     

ATY - F
Primary coverts are an irregular mix of black (fresh), and worn, retained adult feathers OR are uniformly black. Iris deep red. Forehead blackish to olive-brown, contrasting with the red crest.  The malar region has no red.

     

TY - M
Outer few primary coverts replaced (black), all other retained primary coverts pale brown.  Forehead and crest red.  The malar region has a distinct red stripe.

     

TY - F
Outer few primary coverts replaced (black), all other retained primary coverts pale brown.  Forehead blackish to olive-brown, contrasting with the red crest.  The malar region has no red.

 

SY - M
Primary coverts uniformly brown and contrast with the rest of the wing.  Forehead and crest red.  The malar region has a distinct red stripe.

     

SY - F
Primary coverts uniformly brown and contrast with the rest of the wing.  Forehead blackish to olive-brown, contrasting with the red crest.  The malar region has no red.

     

-

September - December:

ASY - M
Primary coverts are an irregular mix of black (fresh), and worn, retained adult feathers OR are uniformly black. Iris deep red. Forehead and crest red.  The malar region has a distinct red stripe.

     

ASY - F
Primary coverts are an irregular mix of black (fresh), and worn, retained adult feathers OR are uniformly black. Iris deep red. Forehead blackish to olive-brown, contrasting with the red crest.  The malar region has no red.

     

SY - M
Outer few primary coverts replaced (black), all other retained primary coverts brown.  Forehead and crest red.  The malar region has a distinct red stripe.

     

SY - F
Outer few primary coverts replaced (black), all other retained primary coverts brown.  Forehead blackish to olive-brown, contrasting with the red crest.  The malar region has no red.

     

HY - M
Primary coverts brown, contrasting with the rest of the wing.  Iris gray/brown. Forehead and crest red.  The malar region has a distinct red stripe.

     

HY - F
Primary coverts brown, contrasting with the rest of the wing.  Iris gray/brown.  Forehead blackish to olive-brown, contrasting with the red crest.  The malar region has no red.

 

 Ageing and sexing details:

after-third-year male


ATY malesí foreheads and crests are red.  The malar region has a distinct red stripe, and the iris is deep red.

 


Primary coverts are an irregular mix of black (fresh), and brown (worn) feathers OR are uniformly black.  The secondaries are either uniformly adult with relatively fresh tertials, OR have 1-4 older adult feathers (often not symmetrically in both wings) that contrast only slightly with replaced feathers.  Note:  ATYs with isolated, retained juvenal primary coverts or with 3 generations of primary coverts (sequentially replaced), may be aged 4Ys, but more study is needed.

 

 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

after-third-year female


ATY femalesí foreheads are blackish to olive-brown, contrasting with the red crest.  The
malar region has no red, and the iris is a deep red.


 


Primary coverts are an irregular mix of black (fresh), and brown (worn) feathers OR are uniformly black.  The secondaries are either uniformly adult with relatively fresh tertials, OR have 1-4 older adult feathers (often not symmetrically in both wings) that contrast only slightly with replaced feathers.  Note:  ATYs with isolated, retained juvenal primary coverts or with 3 generations of primary coverts (sequentially replaced), may be aged 4Ys, but more study is needed.

 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

third-year male


TY malesí foreheads and crests are red.  The malar region has a distinct red stripe.



 


The outer few primary coverts are replaced (black). All other retained primary coverts are pale brown.  The back and wing coverts are uniformly black, and the secondaries are either uniformly adult or occasionally 1-4 juvenal feathers are retained through s1-s5 (often symmetrically in both wings).  These should contrast markedly with replaced feathers. Some intermediates may occur that are extremely difficult to age.  These should be aged ASY.



 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers, though can help differentiate between Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers.  The Downy Woodpecker has black in the outer rectrix while the Hairy rarely does.


 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW 

 

third-year female


TY femalesí foreheads are blackish to olive-brown, contrasting with the red crest.  The malar region has no red.



Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, April 2006


The outer few primary coverts are replaced (black). All other retained primary coverts are pale brown.  This is shown in the photo below, where the 2 outer primary coverts are fresher than the others.  The back and wing coverts are uniformly black, and the secondaries are either uniformly adult or occasionally 1-4 juvenal feathers are retained through s1-s5 (often symmetrically in both wings).  These should contrast markedly with replaced feathers, as seen in the photo below. Some intermediates may occur that are extremely difficult to age.  These should be aged ASY.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, April 2006


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, April 2006


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers.


 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

second-year male


SY malesí foreheads and crests are red.  The malar region has a distinct red stripe, and the iris is grayish or brownish.

 


Primary coverts are uniform and paler brown than the rest of the wing.  The back feathers and replaced inner wing coverts contrast with the browner, retained outer wing coverts.  The secondaries are either uniform in colour or 1-3 may occasionally be fresher.  Caution: SYs can resemble ATYs with uniform secondaries and primary coverts.  Look for retention of juvenal characteristics: a larger, more rounded p10.

 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers, but SY birds can sometimes have very pointed rectrices that may support other plumage characteristics.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

second-year female


SY femalesí foreheads are blackish to olive-brown, contrasting with the red crest.  The malar region has no red, and the iris is grayish or brownish.

 


Primary coverts are uniform and paler brown than the rest of the wing.  The back feathers and replaced inner wing coverts contrast with the browner, retained outer wing coverts.  The secondaries are either uniform in colour or 1-3 may occasionally be fresher.  Caution: SYs can resemble ATYs with uniform secondaries and primary coverts.  Look for retention of juvenal characteristics: a larger, more rounded p10.



 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers, but SY birds can sometimes have very pointed rectrices that may support other plumage characteristics.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

after-second-year male


ASY malesí foreheads and crests are red.  The malar region has a distinct red stripe, and the iris is deep red.

 


Primary coverts are an irregular mix of black (fresh), and brown (worn) feathers OR are uniformly black.  The secondaries are either uniformly adult with relatively fresh tertials, OR have 1-4 older adult feathers (often not symmetrically in both wings) that contrast only slightly with replaced feathers.  Note:  ASYs with isolated, retained juvenal primary coverts or with 3 generations of primary coverts (sequentially replaced), may be aged TYs, but more study is needed.

 

 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW 

 

after-second-year female


ASY femalesí foreheads are blackish to olive-brown, contrasting with the red crest.  The malar region has no red, and the iris is deep red.

 


Primary coverts are an irregular mix of black (fresh), and brown (worn) feathers OR are uniformly black.  The secondaries are either uniformly adult with relatively fresh tertials, OR have 1-4 older adult feathers (often not symmetrically in both wings) that contrast only slightly with replaced feathers.  Note:  ASYs with isolated, retained juvenal primary coverts or with 3 generations of primary coverts (sequentially replaced), may be aged TYs, but more study is needed.

 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

second-year male


SY malesí foreheads and crests are red.  The malar region has a distinct red stripe, and the iris may be grayish or brownish.

 


The outer few primary coverts are replaced (black). All other retained primary coverts are pale brown.  The back and wing coverts are uniformly black, and the secondaries are either uniformly adult or occasionally 1-4 juvenal feathers are retained through s1-s5 (often symmetrically in both wings).  These should contrast markedly with replaced feathers. Some intermediates may occur that are extremely difficult to age.  These should be aged AHY.

 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers, but SY birds can sometimes have pointed rectrices that may support other plumage characteristics.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

second-year female


SY femalesí foreheads are blackish to olive-brown, contrasting with the red crest.  The malar region has no red, and the iris may be grayish or brownish.

 


The outer few primary coverts are replaced (black). All other retained primary coverts are pale brown.  The back and wing coverts are uniformly black, and the secondaries are either uniformly adult or occasionally 1-4 juvenal feathers are retained through s1-s5 (often symmetrically in both wings).  These should contrast markedly with replaced feathers. Some intermediates may occur that are extremely difficult to age.  These should be aged AHY.

 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers, but SY birds can sometimes have pointed rectrices that may support other plumage characteristics.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

hatch-year male


HY malesí foreheads and crests are red.  The malar region has a distinct red stripe, and the iris is grayish or brownish.

 


Primary coverts are uniform and paler brown than the rest of the wing.  The back feathers and replaced inner wing coverts contrast with the browner, retained outer wing coverts.  The secondaries are either uniform in colour or 1-3 may occasionally be fresher.  Caution: fresh fall HYs can resemble ASYs with uniform secondaries and primary coverts.  Look for retention of juvenal characteristics through October: a larger, more rounded p10.

 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers, but HY birds can sometimes have very pointed rectrices that may support other plumage characteristics.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

hatch-year female


HY femalesí foreheads are blackish to olive-brown, contrasting with the red crest.  The malar region has no red, and the iris is grayish or brownish.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, September 2004


Primary coverts are uniform and paler brown than the rest of the wing (shown below).  The back feathers and replaced inner wing coverts contrast with the browner, retained outer wing coverts.  The secondaries are either uniform in colour or 1-3 may occasionally be fresher.  Caution: fresh fall HYs can resemble ASYs with uniform secondaries and primary coverts.  Look for retention of juvenal characteristics through October: a larger, more rounded p10 (shown below on the right edge of the wing).


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, September 2004


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers, but HY birds can sometimes have very pointed rectrices that may support other plumage characteristics.

 

 RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

© 2002- The Migration Research Foundation Inc.