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- EssaysEric Dinerstein Bill Young
Year-round Resident Has Nested in Park
Red-bellied Woodpeckers are year-round residents who have nested at Monticello Park.
Where to See Them in the Park
Along with the Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpeckers are the most common woodpecker species at Monticello. They can be seen in any part of the park. They often vocalize when foraging, which makes them fairly easy to locate. Sometimes, they have nested in trees that can be seen from the bridge.
Male Red-bellied Woodpeckers have a black-and-white ladder back. The crown and nape are red, which is why some people mistakenly call them Red-headed Woodpeckers. Their belly is white with an orange patch in the middle. Because woodpeckers generally have their belly against a tree, the orange patch can be difficult to see in the field. In flight, they show white crescents near the ends of their wings, which is an important fieldmark. The spiky central tail feathers help them to anchor their bodies when foraging on a tree. Their tail and two strong legs function like a tripod. During the breeding season, you sometimes see males having aggressive encounters. They fly like most other woodpecker species, mixing flaps with glides.
A female looks similar to a male. She has a red nape, but no red on her crown. You can see her namesake red belly in the photo above, and in the photo below.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers have zygodactyl feet, as do all species of woodpeckers. Two toes point forward and two point back. Most bird species have four toes, with three pointing forward and one back. The zygodactyl arrangement helps woodpeckers to hold onto trees more effectively.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers are cavity nesters. They raise 1 to 3 broods each year, and the female lays 2 to 6 eggs in each brood. The eggs are incubated for 12 days, and the young stay in the nest hole for 24 to 27 days.
When the young birds leave the nest, their head and neck is mostly gray, with only a little bit of red feathering like the adults.
The call of the Red-bellied Woodpecker is a loud harsh churr, often repeated a few times. They also have a loud char vocalization, which they repeat numerous times.Hear the vocalizations and sounds of the Red-bellied Woodpecker.
Birds sometimes are born with faulty genes that result in plumage abnormalities or physical deformities. Birds with bill deformities, such as this Red-bellied Woodpecker with the extremely long upper mandible, are rarely seen, because they usually do not survive long enough for people to see them.
Origin of Names
Common Names: Red-bellied from the orange feathers on the belly. Woodpecker because they peck wood.
Genus Name: Melanerpes means "black creeper".
Species Name: Carolinus means "of Carolina", which used to be a loose term for the South.
Red-bellied Woodpecker video footage
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