People often call the Red-bellied woodpecker by a list of common misnomers like red-headed or ladder-back woodpecker because of their gleaming red caps and striking black and white barred backs. Since virtually all woodpeckers are black and white with patches of bright colors on various parts of their bodies, the Red-bellied was named for the unique pinkish tinge on the belly, common to both genders.
However, the sight of a red belly usually isn’t the fist thing you see when it visits your yard. This can only be seen if the bird is facing you. But don’t expect to identify this bird that way. You need to look for the red head first. Adult males have a red cap going from the bill to the nape of the neck. Adult females have a gray crown and a red patch on the nape of the neck and another above the bill. Juveniles have no red at all, just a dark gray crown.
One of the most common woodpeckers, it is found all along the eastern half of the United States. This woodpecker is unusual in that it will sample any food it finds. It eats seeds, fruit, acorns, insects and loves suet when it’s available. In the fall and winter it will store its food in the barks of trees to pull out and eat later.
Special cells on the end of their bills are constantly replaced because of the repeated pounding. Woodpeckers are important to many other bird species because they drill new nest holes each year and leave the old cavities for birds like swallows, owls, bluebirds, and a huge array of small birds like wrens and chickadees to use.