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My Experiences with the Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Updated on September 24, 2014
Male Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Male Red-Bellied Woodpecker | Source
Female Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Female Red-Bellied Woodpecker | Source

How to Identify Male and Female Red-Bellied Woodpeckers

This noisy little Red-Bellied Woodpecker of the eastern part of the U.S., makes me think of an amusing story, but I will save that one for later. I will stick to a few facts for now, and let you read about the good parts shortly. That will be your reward for learning a bit about this bird, but I will tell you this: I was thrilled when I found this beautiful bird at Boomer Lake Park in Stillwater, OK.

This woodpecker was named after his red belly, but the red is actually low on the belly, between the legs and rather difficult to see when one is out in the field. The adults are similar, except the female has a gray crown, and the male’s head and nape is red. This is another bird where both sexes are very easy to identify.

Source

Nesting

This monogamous and solitary nester is conspicuous, with loud vocalizations and drumming during the breeding season. They roost nightly in tree cavities and nest between 5 and 70 feet above ground. They will bore their own cavities, or use abandoned nests of other woodpeckers. Both sexes will build the nest.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Source

My Diet and What I Like to Snack On

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker eats a good variety of material, including seeds, insects, fruits and vegetables, and will even take the sap of the sapsucker from their drill wells. They will also come to your feeders, if you provide suet, nuts, peanut butter, and sunflower seeds. I will cut a piece of a hardwood limb 2-3 inches in diameter, drill six shallow holes in assorted locations, put a sturdy eyehook on the top, and hang it from a tree with good viewing potential. Don’t remove any of the bark, but stuff the holes with peanut butter, and you will have this woodpecker visit, especially if it is on a snag(a dead tree with most of it cut back). If you live where the nuthatches are, they will come, too, and this homemade feeder also happens to be good background for photo opportunities.

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Little Known Facts

The oldest known Red-Bellied Woodpecker was 12 years, 1 month old.

A Red-Bellied Woodpecker can stick out its tongue nearly 2 inches past the end of its beak. The tip is barbed and the bird’s spit is sticky, making it easier to snatch prey from deep crevices. Males have longer, wider-tipped tongues than females, possibly allowing a breeding pair to forage in slightly different places on their territory and maximize their use of available food.

You may sometimes see Red-Bellied Woodpeckers wedge large nuts into bark crevices, then whack them into manageable pieces using their beaks. They also use cracks in trees and fence posts to store food for later in the year, a habit it shares with other woodpeckers in its genus.

European Starling
European Starling | Source
Male and Female Pair of European Starlings
Male and Female Pair of European Starlings | Source

Amusing Story

Some of you will recall this story from earlier adventures. A couple of months ago, the male woodpecker was getting ready for a potential mate and nesting, as he was hollowing out a cavity that was a bit too small for him. A few days later, it was taken over by a male starling, who had been watching all of this work going on. This wonderful little woodpecker just started working below this area that he had originally chosen and hollowed out an entirely new hole, so Mr. and Mrs. Starling lived in the upper and the Woodpecker Family would have the lower bunk. It is still the same arrangement to this day and everything is copacetic for these two sets of birds.

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker | Source

© 2012 Deb Hirt

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    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      One bird will not kill such a large tree, BUT is this woodpecker telling you something? Keep it in mind, as woodpeckers will do this when there are bugs under the bark, not just for the sake of pecking it. Has it been generating less leaves in the spring/summer? There are a number of diseases that can kill maples, so if it looks like it has problems, it just might. If you have any concerns about your tree, contact a tree professional. It is better to be safe than sorry if you have any concerns.

    • profile image

      Sandy s 3 years ago

      We feed the woodpeckers in our back yard. But a few weeks ago I noticed a red bellied woodpecker had been in our ornamental red Maple. I can see some wholes and spots of bear wood. I want to know if they can kill this tree is probably 35 ft tall and I do not want to loose it. Any suggestions should I worry.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, Kate, animals are pretty darn amazing. I have seen some rather remarkable things.

    • NHKate profile image

      NHKate 4 years ago from New England, USA and Florida (in winter)

      Hi Aviannovice... Well, we DID take some photos and video, but couldn't get close enough to make it worthwhile! Rats! :) I didn't realize that the hummers would feed from their sap wells! Fascinating, our little feathered friends! :)

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Kate, sapsuckers are interesting birds, and hummingbirds sometimes feed from their sap wells. Were you able to get any photos? Thanks so much for sharing this story with me.

    • NHKate profile image

      NHKate 4 years ago from New England, USA and Florida (in winter)

      We noticed an interesting "squawk" a few weeks ago, and could not place what type of bird it was. Then one evening, we heard it again and saw a pair of woodpeckers on both an apple tree, and a pear tree. We were able to get a really good look at them, and as it turns out they are YELLOW Bellied Sap Suckers! I have always gotten a kick out of the name of that bird, but had never seen one. The "call" is very similar to the one in the video you have here on this hub. Awesome! We're going to lose both trees, but it's worth it - they got a GREAT feed for a couple of weeks! :)

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      sgbrown, I'm glad that you talked hubby into making a feeder. It is always good to have a few of them around. They also make good presents for other birdwatchers in your life.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Thank you aviannovice! I was telling my husband about your peanut butter "feeder". He has agreed to make me one and I have the perfect place to hang it to get a good view. Thank you for the advice and have a great day! :)

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Sgbrown, to cure them fleeing, feed them peanuts over a period of time. Then they won't leave.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Joyce, they can be very noisy. When I was in Maine, I had one that used to hammer on the side of the house, which was clapboard siding. I gave him a pie tin, and he liked that ever more, as it made a lot of noise.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Glad that you were able to learn some new things, bdegulio. I have fun doing these stories, too.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      You should have the hairy, the downey, the pileated and the red-bellied in your area. If you hear him, go on Youtube and listen to the assorted calls, and pick out the one that resembles your bird.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Glad that you liked them, Mhatter.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Glad to hear that you have one. If you wish to keep the bird there, and you can do it, see if you can obtain a snag or make one in your yard, if the opportunity is there.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      sallieann, I saw the pileated once here, but did not have a good photo opportunity. Saw one in Maine, and he was HUGE. I so want to get a photo, but it will happen.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, xstatic! This is such a great bird with so much personality. Half of these poor birds have their homes taken by the European Starling.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Great hub! I have a couple of red-bellied wood peckers here at my place too. They hang out on an old dead tree in the yard. I know they have excellent eye-sight. They watch me as I come out the door with my camera and off they go! Very interesting hub and I loved the story. Voted up and interesting! Have a great day! :)

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

      You always such interesting hubs. We had Woodpeckers when living in the california mountains. Boy! they were noisey little devils always banging away on the pine trees.

      Voted up and interesting, Joyce.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great Hub. I see the Red-Bellied Woodpecker in my backyard all the time. Amazing bird. Loved the story about the starling. Definitely learned a few things about this woodpecker. Well done. Voting up, sharing, etc..

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      I always find your hubs so interesting and it always generates a question. Here is my latest - What type of woodpeckers are in Upstate New York? We have, what I can only guess is a woodpecker as he never lets me see him but I sure can hear him. He also never comes near any of our feeders. Are they normally timid?

      Too bad more human can't behave like the woodpecker in your store.

      voting up

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for sharing with us... great pics.

    • geoffclarke profile image

      geoffclarke 4 years ago from Canada

      Another interesting article, Deb. I've just started getting a red-bellied woodpecker visiting my feeders. I didn't know about the long tongue but now that I do, I'll be looking to see if I can get a photograph. As usual, thanks for sharing and voted up.

    • sallieannluvslife profile image

      sallieannluvslife 4 years ago from Eastern Shore

      What a beautiful and interesting bird. I have always loved woodpeckers, since I was a little girl. We have a resident pileated woodpecker, who is quite large, and fun to watch, as well.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Great story about that special woodpecker! Good detail and photos too. Up!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Kaili, that's what I mean about these different birds and their different personalities. None of them are completely alike.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, gamby! It's always nice to have such a great audience of people that want to see more stories.

    • Kaili Bisson profile image

      Kaili Bisson 4 years ago from Canada

      Too funny about the opportunistic - and lazy - starling. Voted up and more!

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      gamby79 4 years ago

      Great story. Seems as if the this red-bellied woodpecker is quite neighborly...even if the starlings 'forced it'. I enjoyed listening to the calls also. As always great pics and love the one where you can actually see it's tongue.Looking forward to the next hub!

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