About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Black and White Bird with Red Head

My husband kept telling me we had a Red-headed woodpecker at the feeder while I was at work. I was so excited about having a new bird at the feeder until I realized he was talking about our very frequent visitor, the red-bellied woodpecker. He said that that was a dumb name and that he was still going to call him Mr. Red Head. Will you explain why it’s called Red-bellied Woodpecker?

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.

Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus
Order: Piciformes Family: Woodpeckers (Picidae)
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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.
Related Articles:
What is the Lifespan of a Red-bellied Woodpecker? http://bit.ly/ouuTnx
Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/qIbvvL 
What birds eat suet? http://bit.ly/nO5aJX

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