Welcome to Week #6 of the Bird Weekly Photo Challenge. Week #6 challenge is Woodpeckers | Sapsuckers | Flickers. Upcoming challenges can be found on my Bird Weekly Challenge Page.
The feature image is a Red-bellied Woodpecker that seemed oblivious while I stood at eye level about 12 feet from where this bird was feeding. The same bird is in the first two photos below. All images were taken at St. Marks Wildlife Refuge in April, 2020.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers do not have a red belly. Their belly is a yellowish cream color. Don’t understand that one. If you are not a birder, you may think this is a red-headed woodpecker. This woodpecker’s redhead is more of an orange-red rather than the distinctive dark red head associated with the Red-headed Woodpecker (see him further below). They will come to your feeder for peanuts. In the winter, you may attract them with suet. A really cool fact about this woodpecker is that it can stick out its tongue 2 inches past the end of its beak. Talented little critter, huh? This bird can be spotted year round from eastern Texas northward into Michigan and most all the states eastward from New Hampshire down to Florida. They have been known to be found all the way into southern Canada.
Northern Flickers are a large woodpecker that can often be seen on the ground because they eat ants and beetles. The one above was perched high in this snag at the Bridger Creek Golf Course in Bozeman, Montana. When looking for this bird, look for the white rump patch in flight. You also can’t miss their loud ringing call & piercing yelp. The Northern Flicker is one of the few North American woodpeckers that are migratory. Flickers in the north often move south for the winter, however, some stay in the winter to stick it out. Mostly, Northern Flickers nest in holes in trees like woodpeckers but they have been found in vacated nests of Belted Kingfishers or Bank Swallows.
The Red-headed Woodpecker is a natural redhead. They are distinguished with the solid crimson head, almost solid black and white on their back. This woodpecker doesn’t act like most woodpecker breeds. They will knock out bugs on a tree, but they are quite skilled at catching flying insects in mid-flight. Similar to a flycatcher or gnatcatcher. They will also enjoy acorns and beech nuts, often hoarding the extra food in tree crevices for later, much like a squirrel. They are the only known woodpeckers to cover the stored food with wood or bark. The red-headed woodpecker had declined in numbers over the past fifty years due to habitat loss. They are starting to make a come back in wildlife refuge areas which is where we saw at least 15 of them on this day at Okefenokee Wildlife Management Area in Georgia. Another nifty fact is the Cherokee Indians used the species as a war symbol and it is mentioned in Longfellow’s epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha, telling how a grateful Hiawatha gave the bird its red head in thanks for its service.
The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest common woodpecker in North America and Woody Woodpecker’s character is based on this bird. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker & Mexico’s Imperial Woodpecker are the largest species of woodpeckers in North America, but both may be extinct or near extinction. The Pileated Woodpecker has a loud knocker. Much more noisy than other woodpeckers. Their beak is like a jackhammer. Their excavation ability will net many insects and will often attract other woodpeckers, as well as House Wrens to feed.
The Downy Woodpecker is an active little woodpecker. It moves around and can climb quickly up thin or thick tree branches. This woodpecker is quite acrobatic when feeding. For beginning birders, one of the challenges to identify this bird is the look alike woodpecker, the Hairy Woodpecker. Their features are almost identical, however, the Downy Woodpecker is 5.5-6.7 inches in length and the Hairy Woodpecker is 7.1-10.2 inches in length. When they are together, there is no mistaking which one is which. I don’t have a good photo of the Hairy, but thought it was worth mentioning. The male Downy has a small red patch on the back of his head. The female does not. The photo above is of a female.
Until next week…Week #7 – Any bird (your choice) in black & white or sepia tone.