Wildlife and Nature Photography

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker Is Tops On My Bird List

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This Red-bellied Woodpecker displays the reddish belly for which they are named; the grey crown indicated this bird is a female.

When it comes to birds and birding, “What is your favourite bird” is the question I am asked most frequently. It is a difficult question to answer because I can honestly say I love all birds. Some I prefer more than others but I do love them all, even Starlings and Grackles.

If I had name a bird as my favourite, it would be the Red-bellied Woodpecker. I find their black and white feather pattern combined with their red crowns and napes simply striking. Their ascending, rolling call is music to my ears. The fact that these birds are easily found clinging to tree trunks in plain view, is another point in favour for this bird. Their medium size, colour, and call make locating and photographing these birds much easier than smaller birds that prefer a more dense habitat. Red-bellied Woodpeckers are often called Red Headed Woodpeckers by mistake, a separate species of woodpecker. The reddish belly for which they are named is most often held close to tree trunks and therefore is seldom seen.

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Red-bellied Woodpeckers are often found clinging to tree trunks and stumps searching for food.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are year round residents in our area and can be found in most forests and wooded areas. These birds also regularly frequent city parks and backyards. If you wish to attract these and other woodpeckers to your property, the addition of a peanut and suet feeder will certainly help.

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Red-bellied and other woodpeckers use their powerful beaks to excavate food from trees. The solid red crown indicates that this bird is a male.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers feed on insects, nuts, seeds and berries and are most often seen clinging to tree trunks searching for food. Woodpeckers listen for insects and other arthropods living behind the tree’s bark. Once food is located, they use their powerful beaks to move the bark or excavate a hole in the trunk. Next their long, sticky tongue is used to remove their meal. Red-bellied and other woodpeckers can also be seen storing food such as seeds and nuts behind tree bark and in cavities to be consumed later.

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Woodpeckers use their long sticky tongues to extract insects and other arthropods from tree cavities.

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Success! Today’s meal appears to be some type of larva or grub.

If finding one of these woodpeckers is something you wish to do, start by learning their call. I say this about a lot of birds, but in the case of the Red-bellied Woodpecker their call is easily recognized and they are not shy about using it to give away their location. If one of these birds is in the area you will hear it. Next time you come across a Red-bellied Woodpecker, admire their beautiful colours, markings and call. Once you do, it may become one of your favourite birds as well.

Good birding,



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2 Responses to “The Red-Bellied Woodpecker Is Tops On My Bird List”

  1. Debbie Lefebre

    They have to be quite the cheekiest, most rambunctious babies to raise in rehab! They are fiercely food-aggressive and beat each other up with great enthusiasm so they end up having to be placed in separate, neighboring enclosures as soon as they get past the young nestling stage. Apparently, in the wild, only the dominant babies survive. Very early on, they also become fiercely territorial. They love having a “hidey box” in their enclosures where, like little trolls, they will lurk just waiting to rush out and defend their territory against an invasive human hand reaching in to fill the food dish. They are really quite comical to see. I love raising them even though they are rather like juvenile delinquents with feathers. Your photos, as always, are brilliant!

    • Paul Roedding

      Thank you Debbie. That explains a lot. The ones I have that visit my backyard feeders are quite aggressive and often chase and peck at the other birds on the feeders.

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