I'm guessing most people thinking of woodpeckers would picture a pileated.
Not because they've seen one, but because woodpeckers in our time have been defined by the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker as much as anything they've seen in the wild.
I find that a depressing thought.
In a good year, I'm often lucky enough to see hairy, downy, red-bellied and red-headed woodpeckers and northern flickers from my house. To make a six-pack of woodpeckers though, I need to go elsewhere for the pileated, usually Berrien County in Michigan or around Starved Rock State Park in Illinois.
Visiting the in-laws last week, I heard the call of a pileated grating the stillness around Table Rock Lake in Missouri.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes their call as ``a loud, ringing `kuk-kuk-kuk.' '' That's being kind. I describe it as a teenager's $300 car coming down the block while being vibrated by $500 speakers turned to 11. But that's probably over the top.
Yesterday, my wife pulled in their drive and pointed. A pileated (they drill holes seeking ants) was hammering away at an almost indestructible cedar stump.
And it was wonderful. As much as I find their hammering and yammering disagreeable when seeking solitude in the woods, pileateds are striking birds.
Pileateds are the largest woodpeckers in North America, but are most distinctive for the red crest on their heads (the resemblance to Woody Woodpecker). Personally, I think they are as distinctive for their call, almost as annoyingly intrusive as a jay's.
To learn more about pileateds, go here.