Red-bellied Woodpecker

Hey Guys! Welcome back! We’ve reached our first woodpecker species! Growing up, woodpeckers were always those birds I knew about but never saw. Only on rare occasions do I ever remember seeing one. Funny how that goes. When you know what you’re looking (or listening) for, you notice just how common woodpeckers really are. Take this guy. It seems like I see or hear one nearly every time I go birding. Whether it’s here in St. Louis, back in Ohio, or when I lived in NYC. Now, I didn’t necessarily see a bunch of them, but you can almost always check off one on your list for the day.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is a great example of misleading bird names. Although they do have a small area of reddish feathers on their belly, it’s not very often visible, even under the right conditions. This guy is kind of right in the middle size-wise when compared to other woodpeckers. They also have a very distinct call. Well, distinct compared to other non-woodpeckers. They can make sounds that are similar to other woodpecker species, but if you get to know your sounds, you can tell them apart. (I’ll be honest, I sometimes confuse their call with a Northern Flicker at first) You’ll also more often hear them before you see them, so getting to know their call gives you a good idea of what you’re looking for.

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Female Red-bellied Woodpecker, Forest Park, St. Louis, MO

Like nearly all woodpeckers, the Red-bellied Woodpecker has red feathers on its head. They have a sort of red “mohawk.” On the male, the red starts at the beak and goes back, on the female, the red starts at the top of the head. They also look kind of like they’re wearing a black and white checkered tweed jacket. It still amazes me how woodpeckers, or birds in general really, can just stand sideways on a tree! Woodpeckers have fairly strong tails, which is something you don’t usually think about with birds, but next time you see a woodpecker standing on the side of a tree, look closely and you’ll probably see that it’s sort of “leaning” on its tail.

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Red-bellied Woodpecker, Central Park, NY

Even with as common as woodpeckers are, I always stop to look when I see one. Perhaps it’s a holdover from my childhood when they were those “mythical” birds. Whatever the case, we got another woodpecker species coming up next time! So until then…

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Male Red-bellied Woodpecker, Central Park, NY

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