ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Red-bellied Woodpecker Family

Updated on November 5, 2015
naturegirl7s profile image

Since the mid-1980s, Yvonne has maintained a registered NWF backyard wildlife habitat where a variety of birds, insects, and frogs abound.

Birds and Their Young Use What Katrina Left

The only good thing that Hurricane Katrina did for Southeastern Louisiana was to leave plenty of broken trees in which the woodpeckers and other cavity nesting birds could raise their young. The Red-bellied Woodpeckers have been very prolific since Hurricane Katrina and we have photographed much of the day to day comings and goings of a family that nested in a broken Pine tree near our house. We hope you enjoy this photo journal of the life and habits of a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers and their babies.

Many of the photos seen here can be purchased in Naturegirl7's Zazzle Shop as print-on-demand products such as posters, cards, apparel, mugs, etc.

Our Woodpecker Family

The woodpecker family contains many beautiful birds of varying sizes. One of the most common woodpeckers in our neck of the woods is the medium sized Red-bellied Woodpecker. These colorful birds are permanent residents so we enjoy seeing them all year long. We are lucky to have several breeding pairs in our habitat. Some of them have become quite used to us and have brought their young to the feeding station nearby, allowing us to get some good photos of the whole family and giving us some insight into the habits and family life of the wonderful and intelligent birds.

Female Red-bellied Poster

Male Red-bellied Poster

Red-bellied Identification

All About Birds

Red-bellied Woodpeckers range includes most of the Eastern half of the United States. It is described as being a medium to large-sized woodpecker with a red hood from top of head to back of neck. The back barred black and white. It is about 9 inches long with a wingspan of 13-17 inches and weighs from 1.98-3.21 ounces.

Listen to the Sounds of the Red-bellied Woodpecker from the PWRC USGS.

Differences Between the Sexes

The male has a red hood extending to the forehead. The female has a red nape only. The male Red-bellied Woodpecker has a longer bill and a longer, wider tongue tip than the female. These adaptations may allow the male to reach deeper into furrows to extract prey and may allow the sexes to divide up the resources in one area.

Male Storing Sunflower Seeds

Habitat and Diet

The Red-bellied Woodpecker inhabits forests, groves, orchards, farmland and suburbs. According to Sibley, "Woodpeckers tend to be habitat specialists; as such, they are to some extent at risk of extinction when their habitat is threatened." Breeding Bird Survey data reports show that while other woodpecker numbers have dropped, Red-bellied Woodpecker numbers are increasing. We have certainly seen an increase in numbers of all of the six species of woodpeckers that inhabit our habitat in Southeastern Louisiana, mainly because of the extraordinarily large numbers of dead and decaying pine trees that were left after Hurricane Katrina tore a path of destruction through our area. There were so many trees down that we couldn't move them all without destroying what was left of the under story. So today a wide variety of birds and animals take advantage of the "Katrina log" feeders that we made from the debris.

Male Woodpecker at Feeder


Red-bellied eating Blackberry Poster


Red-bellieds eat a variety of insects, invertebrates, fruit and seeds. Animal food includes: beetles (including wood-boring larvae), ants and other Hymenoptera, grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars and bugs. There are also records of these woodpeckers feeding upon vertebrates such as small tree frogs and lizards. Plant food includes: Oak, Grape, Corn, Mulberry, Virginia-creeper, Cherry, Pine, Poison-ivy, Bayberry, Hickory, Dogwood, Beech, Hazelnut, Black Gum, Elderberry and Palmetto. (Martin, Zim and Nelson, American Wildlife & Plants A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits.)

Young Begging to Dad

Dad is showing the seed storage hole to his young one.
Dad is showing the seed storage hole to his young one.

Many woodpeckers stash or store food in the cracks and crevices in trees and Red-bellied woodpeckers are one that does, but this species does not appear to defend these stashes against mammals or other birds. They also use holes in trees to anchor a tough seed or nut so that it can be broken open. We were able to capture a male Red-bellied "teaching" one of his young ones just how to do this.

Teaching Young to Find Food

You can see the hole where the father puts sunflower seeds, but the fledgling doesn't have a clue.
You can see the hole where the father puts sunflower seeds, but the fledgling doesn't have a clue.

Woodpecker in the Backyard

Woodpecker in the Backyard (Wildlife Conservation Society Books)
Woodpecker in the Backyard (Wildlife Conservation Society Books)
Children are fascinated by woodpeckers and the Wildlife Conservation Society Books publishes wonderful animal books for children.

Red-bellied Eating Mulberries Vid


At the Nest Hole

Male and Female on Nest Tree


Like most woodpeckers, Red-bellied woodpeckers are monogamous and territorial. Woodpeckers are cavity nesters who drill out a new nesting cavity each year. Red-bellieds will also nest in birdhouses, but don't do so often. We have seen them roost in a Bluebird size nest box that they enlarged the hole in. They often have a cavity for breeding in the spring and another one that they drill out in the fall for roosting. It usually takes about 2 weeks to excavate the cavity.

The hole of the nest cavity usually faces north here in the hot, humid south so that the nest will not become overheated by the afternoon sun. The nesting cavity consists of a narrow (just wide enough for the woodpecker) horizontal entrance to a larger vertical cavity where the 2-6 (usually 4) white eggs are laid on a bed of wood chips.

Both the male and female incubate the eggs for 12 days. The chicks are altrical (blind and naked at birth) and fledge from 24-27 days. Both parents care for the young.

As the chicks grow, the parents frantically go back and forth to the feeders and the woods to bring food to stuff into the gaping mouths.

Colorful Male Poster

Some male red-bellieds are extremely colorful and show how the bird got its name.
Some male red-bellieds are extremely colorful and show how the bird got its name.

Peterson Eastern Birds' Nests

Peterson Field Guide: Eastern Birds' Nests
Peterson Field Guide: Eastern Birds' Nests
A useful guide showing many eastern birds' nests, including cavity nesters. It also gives the reader insight into the breeding cycle and life of these birds.

Changing of the Guard Vid



The Chicks Fledge

Woodpecker parents will often divide the fledglings between them when foraging and we have observed this on several occasions. Many times the fledglings will stay with the parents until fall, even though they may not be dependent on them.

Fledgling and Male

Woodpeckers of North America

Woodpeckers of North America
Woodpeckers of North America
There are many species of woodpeckers which are native to North America. This colorful book will tell you all about them.

Learning to Feed Themselves

Peck Under the Bark for Bugs

This is What You'll Find, Yum!

As fledglings mature, the parents teach them how to find their own food and how to store food. The father patiently models the behavior at the log feeder and the storage cavity that will help the young ones survive. Dad begins to look tired, but finally, one by one, the babies finds food for itself.

Each skill taught by the parents helps to ensure the chick's survival. Knowing how to find and store food will help the young ones make it through the winter.

This is How It's Done, Little One.

After sitting on the side of the log feeder, begging woefully while Dad ignored it, this baby finally picked up a shelled sunflower seed and ate it.

Predators and Usurpers of Nests

Flying Squirrel Postcard

Predators and Usurpers

The predators of the adult birds include many birds of prey like Sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks, Rat Snakes and house Cats. Imported European Starlings often try to take over nesting cavities. In some areas, half of all Red-bellied Woodpecker nesting cavities are taken over by starlings. Other predators of the nestlings and eggs include rat snakes, red-headed woodpeckers and pileated woodpeckers. Old woodpecker cavities (and sometimes the new ones) are used by a variety of creatures including flying squirrels and bluebirds.

Owl and the Woodpecker

The Owl and the Woodpecker: Encounters With North America's Most Iconic Birds (With Audio CD)
The Owl and the Woodpecker: Encounters With North America's Most Iconic Birds (With Audio CD)
Owls are predators that, like woodpeckers, also nest in cavities. This is a true life story of an encounter between an owl and a woodpecker complete with an audio cd.

Texas Rat Snake Climbing Tree


Woodpecker parents will aggressively defend their nests and young. They harass a predator such as the Texas rat snake pictured above, with alarm calls and may even attack predators that come near the nest. If a snake does get into the nesting cavity it will eat the eggs and/or baby birds.

Imported European starlings pose another problem because they will take over the nesting site and throw out the eggs.

Red-bellied Woodpecker Tote Bag

Red-bellied on Zazzle

If you enjoyed the photos on this page, then you may want to take a look at Naturegirl7's Zazzle Shop. Products such as this tote bag sport my red-bellied designs and photos.

Red-bellied Woodpecker Speaks Vid

© 2008 Yvonne L B


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)