Saturday, February 18, 2012

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Most birds that I see in the yard are here because of the feeders.  They spend time eating close to the house, but much of their time is spent in the surrounding woods and fields behaving as birds should.  Occasionally, an individual bird becomes noticeable because of its continuous presence in the yard.  This Red-Bellied Woodpecker has become one of those birds.

I’ve seen this male Red-Bellied Woodpecker visiting the feeder for several months.  It’s usually a morning visitor to the sunflower seed feeder and although I’ve never seen him actually eat one, he makes off with several seeds every day. 

He’s easy to recognize, because he hides his seeds in a hole in the tree that’s only a few feet from the feeder.  Quite a bit of time is spent getting them situated just right.

When the seed is finally in place, he looks all around as though he wants to make sure he was not observed adding to his food cache.

After he’s stored a sufficient amount of seed, he heads off to the Silver Maple or one of the Black Walnuts near the edge of the yard.  This is usually his preening time.

Recently, he’s been giving a lot of attention to the lower side of one of the branches of the dead Silver Maple.  That part of the tree is not visible from the window.  When I saw his head and upper body disappear from sight, I had a good idea of what was going on.

I guess if he’s going to spend all of his time in the yard, he ought to have his home here.  He won’t get much exercise with the feeder only eight feet from his front door.  It would really be neat if a woodpecker pair actually nested in this hole.


  1. HI Steve...I never see them here although some say they have seen them ..perhaps they have cataracts lol..
    You have some great photos of him, I would love to see one you have any idea why they make a perfect round hole ...that always amazed me how they do that !!
    The seed hiding process is quite and event!! : }

  2. Hi Grace. The hole shape topic is probably complex enough to warrant a long, complicated scientific paper. I'll leave that to someone else and just give you my simplified answer. I guess the short answer to the round hole question is that that is what works best. As breeding behavior evolved in the species, the hole shape that favored successful reproduction would be passed down to future generations. I imagine that the hole shape and size would represent the smallest area possible that allowed the passage of the woodpeckers. This would limit the number of predators that might access the nest and give minimal access to inclment weather conditions.