Sunday, August 30, 2009

Red-headed Woodpeckers


I read this week that Red-headed Woodpeckers had nested a modest distance south of our city and were frequently seen with their young along a country road. I see Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers often, Pileated Woodpeckers and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers less frequently but I have never seen a Red-headed Woodpecker in our region. A local bird expert, Neil Taylor told me he used to see them in Homer Watson Park but none had been around for at least five years. They used to be common many years ago and Cornell University lists them as "near threatened" now due to habitat loss.

Adult bird in possible nesting area

I drove to the area where the birds had been reported and fortunately met two birders who had already located them (Thanks!). The weather was cloudy and the birds were never close enough for a good picture although I was happy to have a view through my binoculars. The other birders left and I waited in my vehicle while a rain shower passed over and then watched the birds closely.

Juvenile on possible nesting pole

They preferred a certain pole, and two different dead trees. Red-headed Woodpeckers are supposed to be cavity nesters, but it seemed that they possibly had nested in the top of a hydro pole. I watched an adult bird who seemed to be resting there and then one of the juveniles arrived as well. The juveniles were as large as the adults, but did not have bright plumage yet.

Juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker

Between rain showers, there were a few minutes of sunshine and blue skies and I was able to approach the tree where they enjoyed feeding the most. There was lots of calling back and forth between the birds and I got a very good look at the adults. In all, I spent about two hours waiting for them to come close but it was worth the time observing their behaviour and fine appearance. They will be leaving our area soon to spend the winter south of the Great Lakes but you can be sure I will make an effort to look for them again next year.

16 comments:

  1. I love their bright red heads! Glad they're coming back.

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  2. In Singapore, I lived near the bush, there were many big trees outside my balcony.

    I miss the woodpeckers TOK TOK TOK on the trees.

    I must find out if there are wood peckers in NZ.

    Your photos are great.

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  3. What a great discovery. Haven't seen a red-headed since living in the midwest. Such a dramatic looking woodpecker. You did good catching those images.

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  4. We don't have these kind of woodpeckers here. Very pretty with their red heads.

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  5. Such striking (oh my, I just made a pun!) birds. Lovely photos, Ruth. :)

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  6. Oh, they are just so beautiful Ruth! I have only seen them once maybe, and it was a fleeting glance at that. Lucky you that you got to observe them for such a long time. :c)

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  7. How exciting Ruth! I have never seen one.

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  8. A bright male swooped across my vision the other day when I was driving home, and I was so excited I had to pull over to see if I could find where he went - no luck! They sometimes come to my feeder in spring, but I havne't seen them over the summer.

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  9. They are lovely birds......the nesting site is unusual, isn't it?

    Loss of habitat is sad....but it is happening all over the world and putting many species at risk.....

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  10. I am glad you had the opportunity to see and photograph these birds.The adults are so beautiful.We had just such a chanc e earlier this year,at a friendds house.What a treat.
    Blessings,Ruth

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  11. Great find so close to home! What a striking bird with it's glorious bright red head.

    Not only to find adults but to find the young. You can see the markings on the young where the black head will turn to red when they "grow up".

    Great post!

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  12. They really are beautiful birds - I haven't seen any in our area.

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  13. Great photographs of these lovely woodpeckers. We used to see them frequently in eastern NC, and I know they are found here in the mountains, but I haven't seen one yet. Great post.

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  14. Great pictures Ruth! I'm so glad you finally got to see Red-Headed Woodpeckers. They're really chatty aren't they? I noticed that last summer when I saw so many over at Necedah NWR.

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  15. Hi Ruth, excellent find on the RHWP! Did you ever go back to this spot through the summers to see if they nested in this area again? There is a program that is interested in knowing about RHWP nesting and sightings. I will try to find the brochure and post the info, if you're interested.

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  16. No Kellie, I did not go back the past 2 summers. I read about this place on ONT Birds, but people are posting less about finds like this to keep crowds away. They banded one at Ruthven Park this fall. Email me the information if you have it at ruth.kinzie at gmail.com

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