My Experiences with the Red-Bellied Woodpecker
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
© 2012 Deb Hirt