Posts Tagged ‘red headed woodpeckers’

Yesterday afternoon at 94F temperature, 112F Heat Index, I went down to Murray to have a look at the Redheaded Woodpeckers and see what they are doing, They are caching acorns and appeared stressed with the heat. Their mouths were open and tongues exposed. I watched for an hour and got a few photos with my Canon 50D and the Canon EF400L f/5.6. They found one tall old stump that has a massive hole near the top; they are trying to fill it with acorns and other nut meats:




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An ongoing series on the Mating of a pair of Red-headed woodpeckers near Parthenon, Arkansas:



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Yesterday was a gorgeous day; the temperature here in Murray Valley reached 40F. I spotted a pair of Red headed woodpeckers in the Little Buffalo River bottoms near their forage area. They are nesting high in some dead trees not far from the river. The pair spent the day removing old material, possibly forage, from the hole they selected; maybe making 30 trips around the tree in the hour I watched. They ate lots of wasps also. Guess they are plentiful on these sunny warner days. They are magnificent birds !!!

We are expecting a cool down the first part of this week an then much warmer next week. I now expect the main warbler and vireo migration to begin around April 15th; nesting always begins in late April and early May:



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I just saw this bird on the Diamond Cave Rd on CR 20. I got pretty close to him because he was on the opposite side of the tree and did not see or hear me. As he/she came around the side I surprised the woodpecker and got 12 shots off before he/she moved to another tree. This is a pretty good photo and shows the feathering and coloration, Males and females are exactly alike. There is a little spring-time molting on the head at this time.

The gorgeous Red-headed Woodpecker is so boldly patterned it’s been called a “flying checkerboard,” with an entirely crimson head, a snow-white body, and half white, half inky black wings. These birds don’t act quite like most other woodpeckers: they’re adept at catching insects in the air, and they eat lots of acorns and beech nuts, often hiding away extra food in tree crevices for later. This magnificent species has declined severely in the past half-century because of habitat loss and changes to its food supply.


  • Size & Shape

    Red-headed Woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers with fairly large, rounded heads, short, stiff tails, and powerful, spike-like bills.

  • Color Pattern

    Adults have bright-red heads, white underparts, and black backs with large white patches in the wings, making the lower back appear all white when perched. Immatures have gray-brown heads, and the white wing patches show rows of black spots near the trailing edge.

  • Behavior

    In addition to catching insects by the normal woodpecker method of hammering at wood, Red-headed Woodpeckers also catch insects in flight and hunt for them on the ground. They also eat considerable amounts of fruit and seeds. Their raspy calls are shriller and scratchier than the Red-bellied Woodpecker’s.

  • Habitat

    Red-headed Woodpeckers live in pine savannahs and other open forests with clear understories. Open pine plantations, tree-rows in agricultural areas, and standing timber in beaver swamps and other wetlands all attract Red-headed Woodpeckers.


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For a scarce bird across its’ range; I have seen dozens here, near Parthenon, AR.

Rangewide, Red-headed Woodpeckers have declined on average by 2.7 percent per year from 1966–2010, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey—suggesting a cumulative drop of some 70 percent over the whole period. The most severe losses have been in Florida and the Great Lakes, with only scattered areas of modest increase evident in parts of Alabama, Georgia, the Northeast, and the Midwest. Red-headed Woodpeckers were common to abundant in the nineteenth century, probably because the continent had more mature forests with nut crops and dead trees. They were so common that orchard owners and farmers used to pay a bounty for them, and in 1840 Audubon reported that 100 were shot from a single cherry tree in one day. In the early 1900s, Red-headed Woodpeckers followed crops of beech nuts in northern beech forests that are much less extensive today. At the same time, the great chestnut blight killed virtually all American chestnut trees and removed another abundant food source.

Red-headed Woodpeckers may now be more attuned to acorn abundance than to beech nuts. Though the species was common in towns and cities a century ago, it began declining in urban areas as people started felling dead trees and trimming branches. After the loss of nut-producing trees, perhaps the biggest factor limiting Red-headed Woodpeckers is the availability of dead trees in their open-forest habitats. Management programs that create and maintain snags and dead branches may help Red-headed Woodpeckers. Although they readily excavate nests in utility poles, a study found that eggs did not hatch and young did not fledge when the birds nested in newer poles (3–4 years old), possibly because of the creosote used to preserve them. In the middle twentieth century Red-headed Woodpeckers were quite commonly hit by cars as the birds foraged for aerial insects along roadsides.


Near Threatened


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