Piliated Woodpecker nesting along the Sammamish River
Credit, John Reinke
The bird you see is a pileated woodpecker, which is the largest woodpecker in North America. It is close to the size of a crow. This female is sticking its neck out of the nesting hole it and its mate has dug about 25 feet off the ground in a dying poplar tree. You can tell it is a female by the fact that it has a black forehead above its beak, whereas in males, this area is red. Both sexes have red crests and otherwise are mostly black.
Pileated woodpeckers are not very common in our area. I have only seen one in Redmond during the previous 25 years I have lived here. However, I spoke recently with a man who said that he sees one at his bird feeder frequently, and he has a friend who has had the same experience. The Washington Department of Fish and Game is currently considering the pileated woodpecker as a candidate to be listed as an endangered species in our state.
I took this photograph in a stand of dead and dying poplars located along the Sammamish River Trail, about seven tenths of a mile north of the NE 90th Street Bridge. The stand is located on the east side of the trail, right across from the rust-colored foot bridge that spans the river there. A friend saw a male and female in the same area.
If you walk or bike up that way, you'll see that there are a number of holes that have been drilled high up in the poplars. The pileated woodpecker nest hole is kind of around the back of one of these trees, so you are unlikely to spot it without a good deal of effort.
However, you may well see a pair of red breasted sapsuckers that are nesting in a hole that faces the trail, about 40 feet up in the same tree. A pair of flickers has a nest in another hole that faces the trail, located even higher in another dead poplar, one or two trees to the left of this one. I have also occasionally seen a downy woodpecker foraging among these trees.