Red-bellied Woodpecker

So all you really need to attract red-bellied woodpeckers (or actually any woodpecker) is at least one suet feeder in the yard.

Red-bellied woodpeckers on the grape trellis and small suet feeder

The red-bellied woodpecker was number two on my most photographed bird list this summer—after the ruby-throated hummingbird.

So the red-bellied woodpecker is a medium size woodpecker that has a very distinctive bar pattern on their back and the red stripe/cap on their head. Now comes the fun part—they aren’t to be confused with the Red-headed woodpecker that has a solid red head and solid black back.

Red-bellied woodpecker on the utility pole in the backyard

The red belly of the woodpecker is often more of a pale red/pink color and often times not seen as their chests are against the trees or the suet feeders. They are best identified by the red stripe on their head, the tuft of red above their beak, and the black/white bars on their back.

When they hang on the smaller suet feeder–you can just barely see the pale red on their chests.

Red-bellied woodpeckers are found throughout most of the eastern United States (though they’re absent from the northern parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Massachusetts, the northeastern parts of New York, and absent from Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine). Though sightings over the past five years have shown them expanding into areas they currently weren’t found in (so the list above—they’ve been spotted in each of those areas at least once over the past five years).

Map that shows the basic range of the red-bellied woodpecker. Map(c) Birds of the World

They are year-round residents, that can be found near wooded areas and visiting backyards that have put out suet feeders. We’ve noticed that they feed from the suet feeders year round, and occasionally will also eat from the normal bird feeder.

Red-bellied woodpecker foraging on the pecan tree in the backyard.

Their diet consists mainly of insects, spiders and other small arthropods it forges for on trees. Though they will also eat seeds (hence showing up at suet feeders), fruits, nuts, acorns and pine cones.

Since the small suet feeder was empty for the day–the red-bellied woodpecker decided to feed at the small bird feeder.

New goal: set up a hummingbird feeder in a location that will also allow the red-bellied woodpeckers to feed from them as well.

Young red-bellied woodpecker feeding at the large suet feeder
Adult red-bellied woodpecker feeding at the larger suet feeder.

Since we live in a part of town that has mature trees, the woodpeckers are plentiful, and therefore we ensure that there is at least one type of suet out at all times for both them and the other birds. Another photography goal will be trying to spot a woodpecker burrow and get a photograph of woodpeckers entering and/or leaving the nest.

Red-bellied woodpecker in the elm tree

So if you can set out suet feeders to attract these birds I would highly suggest doing so–they beautiful animals to see in your backyard. Also when you’re walking through the woods, or even parks–keep an eye out for their red heads and black/white barred backs.