Tag Archives: Red-bellied Woodpecker

Field trip to Hawk’s Bluff

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Early birders at Hawk’s Bluff, Savannas Preserve State Park yesterday morning just after 7 a.m. We saw 28 species in 2 hours and 22 minutes, in a one-mile walk on sandy trails. Here’s our eBird checklist.

The field trip was organized by Audubon of Martin County and led by Roy Netherton, who was knowledgeable and passionate about this special area of old sand dunes and scrubland, oak hammocks and freshwater marsh along Florida’s Atlantic Coastal Ridge.

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A Brown Thrasher made an appearance.

The theme of my better photos this day: Birds On Snags! Hawk’s Bluff has plenty of standing dead trees.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

It can be tricky to glimpse a Brown Thrasher in a tangled mass of shrubbery, and once you do you may wonder how such a boldly patterned, gangly bird could stay so hidden. Brown Thrashers wear a somewhat severe expression thanks to their heavy, slightly down-curved bill and staring yellow eyes, and they are the only thrasher species east of Texas.

This was only the second time I’ve seen a Brown Thrasher. I love the cinnamon color above and bold spots below.

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Hawk’s Bluff lived up to its name when this young Red-shouldered Hawk flew to this spot, mobbed by grackles who settled on nearby trees and kept up their noisy complaints.

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It was great to be walking with an expert birder who could tell us what we were looking at, and listening to. My usual method is take photos, ID at home and then read about the bird.

My fall resolution: more guided field trips!

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Roy said young hawks like this one take some time to learn how to hunt and they have a high mortality rate. So we all stood there feeling a bit sad for this little guy who seemed not to know what to do about the cackle of grackles calling in reinforcements.

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Red-shouldered Hawks soar over forests or perch on tree branches or utility wires. Its rising, whistled kee-rah is a distinctive sound of the forest. They hunt small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles either from perches or while flying.

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Grackle on a dead tree in morning light, with a freshwater basin marsh beyond and thunderstorms to the southwest.

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This male Boat-tailed Grackle was quite shiny with iridescence.

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To see Boat-tailed Grackles, head to the southeastern or Gulf Coast and look for long-tailed black birds around marsh edges, boat launches, and parks. They often walk around boldly on long legs with their tails cocked up, searching for food. It is also common to see Boat-tailed Grackles perched on roadside utility wires. If you still can’t find one, head to a fast food restaurant in a beach town and scout around for discarded French fries—you’re almost sure to find grackles there.

Ha ha, Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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Boat-tailed Grackles breed abundantly in salt and freshwater marshes along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. They are closely associated with saltwater and are rarely found more than about 30 miles from saltwater except in the Florida peninsula, where they occur across its breadth.

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It is not breeding season, but the males were displaying anyway. Just keeping in practice?

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The harem mating system of these grackles is unique to birds in North America, though it’s shared by oropendolas of the American tropics. Individual males defend clusters of nesting females from other males. Only the high-ranked males, having established their status through displays and vigorous fights, get to mate in the colony, although DNA evidence indicates other males manage to mate with females away from the colonies.

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Grackles are pretty much the mascots of this section of Savannas Preserve, with their boldness and high visibility.

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Roy told us that the higher of two displaying males is generally the more dominant.

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Dominance is also signaled by the head up, beak in the air.

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“I’m the man.”

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Here comes an upstart.

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I believe these were Common Grackles.

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Roy and another member of our group who is a plant expert pointed out a field of native lupine. There was just one flower, but during bloom time it is a spectacular field of flowers, and right along the trail.

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The trail is mostly about this wide and we were advised to keep an eye out for coral snakes. Gopher tortoises are sometimes seen. Roy saw a bobcat and kittens along the trail once, he told us.

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Prickly pear cactus, another native. When we left the trail we were cautioned to step carefully, mostly to keep from harming delicate lichens.

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Roy told us about a pair of Bald Eagles that had been nesting for many years on the other side of the marsh. Eventually they obliged and flew into binocular range.

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We saw Mourning Doves and Common Ground-Doves on our walk. I’m pretty sure this is a Common Ground Dove. We watched and listened to three of them in a tree earlier.

A dove the size of a sparrow, the Common Ground-Dove forages in dusty open areas, sometimes overshadowed by the grass clumps it is feeding beneath. Its dusty plumage is easy to overlook until the bird springs into flight with a soft rattling of feathers and a flash of reddish-brown in the wings. These small, attractive doves are common across the southernmost parts of the U.S. from California to Florida.

That’s bird #187 for me, on my blog sidebar!

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I only got one pretty-bad photo of the flitting Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, of which there were at least four, probably more. I have seen them in winter near my home in Sewall’s Point.

A tiny, long-tailed bird of broadleaf forests and scrublands, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher makes itself known by its soft but insistent calls and its constant motion. It hops and sidles in dense outer foliage, foraging for insects and spiders. As it moves, this steely blue-gray bird conspicuously flicks its white-edged tail from side to side, scaring up insects and chasing after them.

Roy said it’s a good bird to know in the Savannas because it will often be in a mixed foraging flock and you will notice (or hear) it first, then see the other species.

Migration should be ramping up soon, with warblers and others arriving on the scene. Roy said he uses Birdcast to keep track of migration in real time.

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Exciting moment when some large terns flew over. One was a Royal Tern, a local species, but then there were three Caspian Terns, vocalizing with raspy, loud calls.

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They are only in this area in “winter” or non breeding season.

As large as a big gull, the Caspian Tern is the largest tern in the world. Its large coral red bill makes it one of the most easily identified terns throughout its worldwide range.

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As I’ve recently started to learn my terns, I’ve been keeping an eye out for Caspians. But these were high enough and just passing over that I wouldn’t have known what they were without our bird guide.

This is a new bird for me too, #188.

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We also saw old friends, like this Blue Jay.

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A small rainbow to the west.

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And we conclude this photo essay with yet another … Bird On Snag! A young Red-bellied Woodpecker with no red on its head yet.

I will be back to this location again soon. It’s just 6.5 miles from my house.

Here is the eBird Hotspot to review all birds that have been seen there: Savannas Preserve SP- Hawk’s Bluff Trail. 163 species year round, and 393 checklists (as of today).

Birds and a turtle and an otter, oh my

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I spied on half the gallinule family and a terrapin on Saturday morning. They were in the reeds at freshwater pond at Indian RiverSide Park, Jensen Beach.

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I think this turtle is a Red-eared Slider, a member of the pond turtle/ marsh turtle family.

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The gallinule chicks are growing up fast.

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Beaks and legs are very different from the adult.

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Much time was spent preening the feathers.

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Was this vocalization directed towards the turtle?

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All birds looking up (in that one-eyed way I remember from my backyard hens), while the turtle continues to watch the gallinules.

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Amazing red and yellow color match between the turtle’s face and tail and adult gallinule’s beak and legs.

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Birds of all species hang close together at this pond, but do the birds and reptiles hang close together too?

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Speaking of coexisting with reptiles, I wondered if this White Ibis lost a leg to an alligator.

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One more photo of the gallinules. What spectacular toes!

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Nearby, Little Blue Heron gets its stalk on.

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A woodpecker flew onto this old tree. I’m guessing it’s a juvenile Red-bellied Woodpecker. It will grow a lovely scarlet cap soon!

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Anhinga perched on one pathetic little tree branch, or root. The park people need to leave more dead wood around the pond.

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This Anhinga is a female, with the light brown neck.

I also walked the boardwalk into the mangrove swamp. It was a breezeless 90 degrees and it felt like 100 in the humidity…

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But I saw an otter! The River Otter, Contra canadensis, lives in and near fresh water in a large part of North America, including throughout Florida except the Keys.

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This looks like a yawn but it may have been a crunch. I could hear it eating something, fish or crab?

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Sharp little teeth, cat-like whiskers, elf ears and a body like an aquatic dachshund… what a strange and wonderful animal.

Also, don’t mess with them… they bite! River otters in Florida got into multiple fights with kayakers last winter.

Birds of the refuge, Sanibel

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This morning around 8 a.m. we drove the one-way road through J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge here on Sanibel Island, where we are staying for a few days.

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We saw this Yellow-crowned Night Heron in mangroves near a short boardwalk.

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Look at that red eye.

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It was overcast and the light wasn’t great, especially looking up, but heck! here’s a Red-bellied Woodpecker anyway.

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Lots of nonchalant rabbits, munching here and there.

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Dogs are allowed in the refuge, in cars or on leashes, so we brought ours.  He’s cool with birds but the rabbits were torture.

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Spotted Sandpiper, my second I’ve ever IDed. The first was two days ago.

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John spotted it from pretty far off.

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A flock of Roseate Spoonbills and one cormorant looked like they were just waking up.

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The refuge is home for over 245 species of birds, according the the Ding Darling website. The Roseate Spoonbills are one of the Big 5 that attract birders to the refuge. We saw some birders with scopes set up, watching this flock.

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One by one, some of the spoonbills took off and flew away. We were watching them from the observation tower.

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Bird coming towards us over the water.

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Green Heron perched just below the tower. You can really see some green in this one.

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Another colored heron, the Little Blue, was waiting just at the bottom of the tower.

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There is something a tiny bit comical about this bird. It seems poised between different feelings, stuck in indecision.

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Hey, bird.

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A decent look at the spoonbill’s bill.

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On the side of the road in the mangroves, a Snowy Egret was standing on one leg as birds are sometimes wont to do. Love the bright yellow feet.

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Not many cars on a July morning. That one ahead was driving slowly past a white bird.

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It was a Great Egret stalking along in the grass.

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When the car drove on, it walked towards us.

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And past.

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The egret was keeping an eye out for lizards and other delicacies.

Birds were my tasty breakfast delicacies! Figuratively, of course.

When the warblers were in town

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Wednesday morning I went out with my camera to see if the warblers that stopped over after the storms on Tuesday were still here. First, a cardinal in our driveway reminded me that resident birds are special too.

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Mourning dove on a morning walk through leaf litter.

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Red-bellied Woodpecker was dipping his beak into a giant white bird-of-paradise flower… for a drink of water? for insects?

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Black-throated Blue Warbler, a bird-photo first for me!

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A uniquely colored, midnight-blue bird of tangled understories, the male Black-throated Blue Warbler sings a relaxed, buzzy I-am-so-la-zee on warm summer days in Eastern hardwood forests. He’s aptly named, with a midnight blue back, sharp white belly, and black throat. The olive-brown females, while not as dramatically marked as the males, have a unique white square on the wing that readily separates them from other female warblers. This warbler breeds in the East and spends the winter in the Caribbean.

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Black-throated Blue in morning sun. Oh, you beauty.

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Another resident made an appearance on our fence, a Carolina Wren.

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In the banyan, a flash of color that can only be an American Redstart.

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Strike a redstart pose.

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Northern Parula, also a photo first for me.

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An acrobat.

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A small warbler of the upper canopy, the Northern Parula flutters at the edges of branches plucking insects. This bluish gray warbler with yellow highlights breeds in forests laden with Spanish moss or beard lichens, from Florida to the boreal forest, and it’s sure to give you “warbler neck.” It hops through branches bursting with a rising buzzy trill that pinches off at the end. Its white eye crescents, chestnut breast band, and yellow-green patch on the back set it apart from other warblers.

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I think this is a female or immature male Cape May Warbler.

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A few blocks from home, this big tree, banyan or strangler fig, was full of warblers.

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Northern Parula.

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  • Before this species received the name Northern Parula (a diminutive form of parus, meaning little titmouse), Mark Catesby, an English naturalist, called it a “finch creeper” and John James Audubon and Alexander Wilson called it a “blue yellow-backed warbler.”

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This Cape May Warbler was a bit disheveled. Molting?

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Like a teenager who just rolled out of bed.

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Northern Parula-palooza.

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Cape May.

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N.P.

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Cape May in a magnolia.

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Another Black-throated Blue Warbler.

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B-t B.

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That was a fine hour of bird watching.

Other wings

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We interrupt Bird Blog to bring you Backyard Butterflies.

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I planted a Corkystem Passion Vine and the Zebra Longwings found one of their favorite host plants in a few days.

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Monarch butterfly alights at the tip of a Simpson’s stopper.

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Many monarchs are year-road residents in south Florida and do not migrate… because they don’t have to.

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This Zebra Longwing laid eggs on this leaf at the tip of the passion vine, then folded the leaf over to protect the eggs.

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Wood Stork flies over our backyard. “Not a lot of places you can see this,” I said to my husband who was sitting in the adirondack chair next to me.

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Wood Storks have been building nests on nearby Bird Island, flying back and forth to our little peninsular town for branches. They can also be seen spiraling overhead with vultures and sometimes a frigate bird or two.

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A Red-bellied Woodpecker clings to our backyard coconut tree.

Red-bellied woodpecker

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Two on a tree.

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There are plenty of Red-bellied Woodpeckers in our neighborhood. It was the same in New Hampshire. Year round residents in both places.

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They are noisy birds.

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I guess they don’t have to sneak up on their food.

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I read somewhere that besides finding food in holes in trees, they sometimes hide their food there too. And of course they make a lot of the holes too.

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Woodpecker pantry!

Halpatiokee Park

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I went for a walk at Halpatiokee Regional Park the other day. I didn’t see many birds.

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I saw this dragonfly.

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I think it smiled at me.

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I am enamored with the vegetation here in Florida.

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A freshwater lake appeared alongside one of the trails. It was a very pleasant walk.

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Ah, a bird I know: Red-bellied Woodpecker.

A guy around the house

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The elusive MALE Red-bellied Woodpecker, in the big oak tree in our front yard.

We have a female that visits our covered tray feeder (or porch railing) in the backyard at least every other day, but I almost never see the/ a male.

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My daughter spotted him on a suet cake cage I had hung from the gingko tree in the front yard a few days ago. By the time I got my camera he was up in the tree.

The male has a red head from his beak to the back of his neck, but the female’s red starts further back on her head. They both have a red spot on their bellies that is not easy to see, so it’s kind of a dumb name.

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The female, pictured above, during our last snow. She grabbed some peanuts from the porch railing.

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The big old red oak tree is a favorite place for many birds including, it seems, the male Red-bellied Woodpecker.

These birds mainly search out arthropods on tree trunks. They may also catch insects in flight. They are omnivores, eating insects, fruits, nuts and seeds. Their breeding habitat is usually deciduous forests. They nest in the decayed cavities of dead trees, old stumps, or in live trees that have softer wood such as elms, maples, or willows; both sexes assist in digging nesting cavities. Areas around nest sites are marked with drilling holes to warn others away.

From Cornell Lab of Ornithology

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.

And…

Backyard Tips

Red-bellied Woodpeckers bring bright colors and entertaining action to bird feeders. If you live near any wooded patches, you may be able to attract them using feeders filled with suet (in winter), peanuts, and sometimes sunflower seeds. They’ve even been spotted drinking nectar from hummingbird feeders. Dead trees may encourage the birds to forage naturally or even nest in your yard, and they may feed on berry trees such as hawthorn or mountain-ash in fall or winter.