18 May 2012 – Red-bellied Woodpecker

Most folks think this bird is the “red-headed woodpecker” but in the actual Red-headed Woodpecker, the entire head, face, neck, and nape are scarlet red on both sexes.

Found a male Red-bellied Woodpecker outside the north entrance to the Noble Research Center today.  If you don’t know this bird, you might be familiar with its call.  Red-bellies are common forest birds from the Great Plains to the Great Lakes, and south to the Gulf Coast and into Florida.  They are non-migratory, although I bet they occasionally disperse over long distances.

This one looks to have been out on a foraging run from which he will not return.  His fat score was 0 and he had a nice (though drying stages) brood patch.  I’m not sure about all species, but woodpeckers are well known to be unusual among birds in that the male also incubates the eggs, and usually is the default parent on the nest overnight.  Thus, brood patches occur in both males and females during the breeding season.  This male’s brood patch indicates that he has or had an active nest somewhere, i.e., he wasn’t some vagrant woodpecker dispersing over a long distance when he met his demise.

The combination of a “zebra-stripe” back and red crown and nape might look familiar if you have these birds in your neighborhood.


It’s only with a specimen in the hand – or on the table – that the red belly of Red-bellied Woodpecker becomes obvious.