They are crow-sized and black, with bright red pointed crests, the red more extensive on the crests of males. A broad white stripe on each side of their faces below their eyes continues down along each side of their necks. Males have red moustachial stripes, females black. White underwing linings and some white at the wrist above are visible when the bird flies.
Any forest type (broadleaved, coniferous, or mixed) can sustain Pileated Woodpeckers as long as there are trees large enough for roosting and nesting. Pileated Woodpeckers are often associated with mature and old-growth forests but can breed in younger forests if they contain some large trees
These powerful woodpeckers chip out characteristic oval or rectangular excavations in the trees in which they forage. Their drumming can be heard for long distances, as can their loud 'laughing' call. They roost in hollow trees with multiple entrance holes.