The sound of the pileated woodpecker's hammering carries a long distance through the woods where they live. They drum to attract mates and to establish the boundaries of their territory—warning other males away.
They use their beaks to peck and dig under bark to find carpenter ants, beetle larvae, and other insects and will often dig large, rectangular holes in trees to uncover their meals. Some holes are so big that they weaken small, young trees. The birds also strip pieces of bark from trees looking for food. Generally, however, pileated woodpeckers help keep a forest healthy by eating wood-boring insects.
A nesting pair of pileated woodpeckers usually makes a nesting hole in a large, older tree. During the day, both parents take turns incubating, or sitting on, the eggs to keep them warm. At night, only the male incubates the eggs. They generally lay four eggs at a time, which take about two weeks to hatch.