As long as the ivory-bill’s existence remains ambiguous, North America’s reigning woodpecker must be the Pileated Woodpecker.  This hulking beauty, black and white with a preposterously scarlet crest, is a most pleasing presence across much of the United States and Canada. That crazy coiffure along with its whinnying laugh betray this bird’s claim to fame as the inspiration for Woody Woodpecker but if you catch sight of Dryocopus pileatus, you probably won’t be thinking of cartoons. Once you stop staring in wonderment (yes, these birds are that cool, especially against the gray of winter) you might ask yourself this question:

“How do you pronounce pileated?”

The word ‘pileated’ is connected to the biological term pileum, which is the top of a bird’s head, the area extending from the base of the bill to the nape. Pileum in turn derives from the Latin word pileus, meaning cap or, if you wish to be as specific, felt cap without a brim. I believe it is generally accepted that in ancient Rome, the word was spoken with a long ‘i’ like pie. However, in the 21st century, we reserve the right to veer from the old ways, especially when it feels right. There are at least two reasonable ways to pronounce pileated and I’d like to know which one you adopt.

This isn’t the first pronunciation poll presented on 10,000 Birds. Our Plover Pronunication Poll was quite entertaining, albeit inconclusive. If we’re lucky, we’ll have even more incisive comments and participation in this one. As an added bonus, we’ll also finally be able to confidently call Pileated Parrots, Antwrens, Flycatchers, and Finches in the field. Sweet!


Pileated Woodpecker
Just don’t call me late for dinner…

Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.