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Posts Tagged ‘Melanerpes carolinus’

Even familiar birds can look cool and different when viewed from an unusual angle. I photographed this Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) Monday morning at Huntley Meadows Park. I was shooting almost straight up and the subject was mostly backlit and in the shadows, but I could just see the red color at the edge of the head.

As an added bonus, you can just see what appears to be the touch of red on the bird’s belly that is responsible for its name—normally you can’t see it and wonder why it is called “red-bellied.”

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Every creature enjoys a brief moment at the top, even this humble little Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park. After working diligently at the lower levels of the tree, the woodpecker climbed to the top to enjoy the scenery and to rest for a short while.

All too quickly it was time to go back to work for this tireless and energetic little bird.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am not sure if it is the cooler autumn weather or the impending winter, but all of the sudden the trees are alive with the sounds of woodpeckers. I can hear them pecking away  and calling out to each other high in the trees. Unfortunately there are still a lot of leaves on the trees, making it hard to spot these busy birds.

On Friday at Huntley Meadows Park, I did manage to get a clear view of a beautiful little Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) feverishly  foraging in a tree. Suddenly the woodpecker turned its head in my direction as though it wanted to proudly show me the bright red fruit that it had discovered.  With the fruit firmly in its bill and a slight smile on its face, the woodpecker flew away, perhaps to cache its find for another day.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Several years ago when I first started taking photos of birds, I remember how excited I was when I photographed a woodpecker that looked like this one. It had red on its head, so surely, I thought, it was a Red-headed Woodpecker.  Oh, how naive I was back then about the complexities of identifying birds.

Sometimes with age comes a bit of wisdom. I am now pretty confident in identifying this bird as a Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), though I must confess that I have never seen a single spot of red on the belly of a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Like the Red-headed Woodpecker that I featured yesterday, the Red-bellied Woodpecker gathers and stores acorns for later use. As one of my readers pointed out in a comment on a previous posting, it is a mystery  how the woodpecker remembers where it has stored the acorns and how it keeps other creatures from stealing its ‘treasures.”

Red-bellied Woodpecker

redbelly1_7Dec_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In the distance I could hear the sound of a woodpecker busily at work. It took a little while for me to finally spot the woodpecker, but eventually I caught sight of him and watched him as he pecked away.

I was happy to be able to identify the bird as a Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), a fairly common species in my marshland park. I was surprised, however, to note that the woodpecker was excavating a cavity that was already large enough to contain its entire head.

I know that Red-bellied Woodpeckers make their nests in cavities and wonder if this might be an early stage of building a nest. Could the bird merely be building a storage area for food? I have lots of questions and multiple possible explanations for what I saw but don’t really have any answers. I think that I remember where I saw the woodpecker and may try to find the tree again and check to see if I can tell whether the woodpecker has worked more to enlarge the cavity in the tree.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Normally I see woodpeckers high in the trees, but some of my fellow photographers spotted this Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) pecking about on the ground below a tree and pointed it out to me. The woodpecker appeared to be collecting acorns and then hopped upward onto the tree carrying an acorn in its bill.

Red-bellied WoodpeckerRed-bellied Woodpecker

Initially I was perplexed, because I tend to think of woodpeckers driving their bills into trees in search of insects, not transporting acorns. Then I remembered back to last winter, when I observed some Red-headed Woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) at my local marshland park stockpiling acorns in the hollow of a tree. Is it possible that Red-bellied Woodpeckers do the same thing?

Red-bellied Woodpecker

I checked out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, my favorite website for information about birds, and it confirmed that Red-bellied Woodpeckers “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.”

Red-bellied Woodpecker

It might be my imagination, but if you look closely at the final shot below, you can see what the outlines of what appear to be several acorns just a bit below the woodpecker’s bill. It’s a mystery to me how the woodpecker remembers where it has stockpiled food and how it keeps other birds from stealing it, but I have to assume that the woodpecker knows what it is doing.

The recent cold weather reminds me that winter is almost here and this bird seems to be preparing for those tougher times to come.

Red-bellied5_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Why was this Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) pecking so feverishly at the top of this broken tree? It certainly did not look like a good spot to find insects.

A few seconds later, I got an answer to my unspoken question, when the woodpecker pulled an acorn out with its beak (at least that’s what I think it is). After a bit of research on the internet, I learned that these woodpeckers eat plant materials, like acorns, as well as insects and that they sometimes use cracks in trees to store food for use at a later time.

red_bellied1-blogred_bellied2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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