Okefenokee Swamp Melanistic Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker, Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. March 5, 2017. ©www.williamwisephoto.com. Please don’t steal my images. Download and use legally from Dreamstime.com.

Going through some older Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge posts, I found this unique observation from April 12, 2010 by iNaturalist member Marv Elliott: a melanistic Pileated Woodpecker (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/538467).

Melanistic Pileated Woodpecker in the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge by Marv Elliott on April 12, 2010. Used by permission.

Contacting Marv about his observation, he replied: “My wife (Susan) and I are birders and Naturalists. We were driving the main road, saw the pileated and knew it looked different. We parked, looked through binoculars and knew we needed a picture. I kept trying to get a good view and the bird kept moving. I followed for a while being a bit uncomfortable walking through grassy habitat favored by poisonous creatures (we are from the north) and finally got the picture. It then flew way off so that is my best effort. This is why we like INat. We do what we love and it gives us a purpose. We can share our sightings. Marv Elliiott”

Marv also posted an interesting link to a 1965 Wilson Bulletin about a melanistic Pileated Woodpecker at Okefenokee in 1917:

A melanistic Pileated Woodpecker specimen from Georgia. — While arranging specimens of Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) in the U.S. National Museum, I found an almost entirely black female… This specimen (USNM No. 268901) was collected 2 November 1917 in the Okefinokee Swamp of Georgia by Harrison Lee… The specimens’ underparts lack any indication of the white feather edges often noted in Pileated Woodpeckers. The white wing patches, characteristic of that species, are entirely lacking, and white is visible only on the underside of the wings… The head and neck lack the striking white marks so characteristic of the Pileated Woodpecker.”

Thanks to Marv for posting this great observation and for being a lover of the Okefenokee!

iNaturalist observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/33726445

eBird checklist: https://ebird.org/checklist/S45165527


  1. As I walk around our SW Florida neighborhood of mostly vacant wooded lots, I observe armadillos, raccoons, gopher tortoises, hawks, cardinals, and many other animals. The other day I watched a pair of pileated woodpeckers for a long time as one of them was attacking an electric pole. Sometimes I see them from my window. I found the photos of the Okeefenokee Swamp Melanistic Pileated Woodpeckers totally captivating. I never knew they existed. Thank you, William, for sharing the information about them.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s