Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Name That Woodpecker!

On the day after dental surgery, it is not easy to look on the bright side of life. It is hard to take the dawg for a good walk when you're loaded with strong medicines and feeling kind of wobbly. But an appearance by a woodpecker today at our feeder helped brighten the day.

When I saw that red head bobbling up and down while gobbling the feed, I figured that our Red-headed Woodpecker, which we had named "Rudy," had returned after being AWOL for several months. I suppose I've always assumed that red-headed woodpeckers were, well, Red-headed Woodpeckers.

Ah, but after a quick check with my bird books, I discovered that today's visitor was actually a Red-bellied Woodpecker.  The difference is mainly the  color and markings of the back. The red-bellied guy has distinctive black-and-white bars up and down its body from head to tail, while the red-headed fellow has a black back. Both have red heads, and both put on a real show with their antics at the feeder.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker…
My guide to South Carolina birds doesn't even mention the red-bellied, and notes that the redheaded populations are declining sharply, partly as a result of competition from starlings and partly (sadly) because of being struck all too often by motor vehicles as they dart about in quest of flying insects.

The authoritative Cornell Lab of Ornithology, on the other hand, says this about the Red-bellied Woodpecker in an "All About Birds" squib:

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are pale, medium-sized woodpeckers common in forests of the East. Their strikingly barred backs and gleaming red caps make them an unforgettable sight – just resist the temptation to call them Red-headed Woodpeckers, a somewhat rarer species that's mostly black on the back with big white wing patches. Learn the Red-bellied's rolling call and you’ll notice these birds everywhere.
… and the Red-headed Woodpecker

We will welcome all species of woodpeckers at our feeders. Hmmm, wonder if the red-headed and red-bellied characters would ever share the nuts, seeds, and fruit provided for them -- with each other, or with other bright and beautiful birds, like the Northern Cardinals. 

                      © Robert G.Holland  2015

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