From Birding

Lifebirds #19 and #20 – A Pair of Woodpeckers

Species  Red-bellied Woodpecker / Melanerpes carolinus
Where Home, Little Canada, MN
When October 2003
Who Joann
Number 19

 
Red-bellied WoodpeckerThe “churr” call of the Red-bellied Woodpecker as it swoops down to land on a suet feeder is one of the more recognizable, and frequently-heard bird sounds in our yard. I still remember dashing for my camera the first few times I heard it, eager to capture this bird on (virtual) film. I needed haven’t worried. This is a very regular year-round resident in our yard—we put up with the high-pitched whiny squeal of fledglings every year—and is not at all shy about posing for photographs.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers really do have red bellies. Not as much red as they have on their heads, it’s true, but at our feeders we do get occasional glimpses of the light red wash on their bellies that give this bird its name.

Species  Hairy Woodpecker / Picoides villosus
Where Home, Little Canada, MN
When October 2003
Who Joann
Number 20

 

I took me and Joann awhile to become confident in our ability to separate Hairy Woodpeckers from Downy Woodpeckers. Sometime in the fall of our first year looking for them, though, we saw an individual that we were sure was a Hairy. It wasn’t long before we’d seen enough of them to know why bill size and shape is the key to the identification puzzle. For the first few years we fed birds, we saw significantly higher numbers of Downies than Hairies. This is not true anymore; it’s close to a toss-up.

Two young Hairy WoodpeckersI’ve taken better photos of Hairy Woodpeckers than the one I’ve used here. But I like this photo of two very young birds who probably hatched in our yard or very close to it. The young male to the right is just putting on some of the red head feathers that will be so important later to his mating success. Even these young smallish Hairies have the long, sharp bill that easily distinguishes them from the Downy Woodpecker.

See lifebird index.