Red-headed Woodpecker

So I managed to get a single picture of a red-headed woodpecker just as the sun went behind some darkish clouds one morning last year. It isn’t the best picture of a red-headed woodpecker, but it also isn’t the worse, especially considering the overcast weather that popped up that morning.

Depending on the woodpecker species, some are more active and easier to spot than others. I think this may have been the second or third time I’ve seen a red-headed woodpecker, but the first time I had a camera with me to get a picture of one.

Red-headed woodpecker at the top of a dead tree

These are medium size woodpeckers, with bright red heads, a white underbelly, and a balack back. The wings are also black, though they have large white patches on them. Those patches make it look like they have a white lower back, when perched on tree trunks.

The younger woodpeckers are gray-brown in coloring, with small black spots at the edges of the white wing feathers.

The red-headed woodpecker is a common woodpecker east of the Rocky Mountains (though can be considered absent to rare in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maine, and parts of Vermont), and is either absent or rare west of the Rocky Mountains.

The range of the red-headed woodpecker. Map (c) birds of the world

For the most part it is a year-round resident for a good number of states–though they are somewhat nomadic; meaning that you may see them one year in one area, but they may be absent from that area the next year.

During the start of their breeding season, they will move from the interior of the forests to the edges or other disturbed areas that have dead or partially dead trees for them to excavate for their nesting cavity.

While they will forage for insects on trees, they are also quite adapt at catching insects in flight as well. Their diet of insects includes beetles, cicadas, midges, honeybees, and grasshoppers.

They will also eat seeds, nuts, berries and corn. In addition they’ve been know to occasionally raid other bird nests for eggs, and have been also observed at catching and eating mice and smaller adult birds as well.

Since they also eat nuts–they will store the beech and acorn nuts in trees (along with their insect cache as well). They are also the only known woodpecker species that covers their stored food with wood or bark.

They will wedge grasshoppers into extremely tight crevices so that they can’t get out.

There have also been fossils of red-headed woodpeckers that date back to the Pleistocene age (so ~2 million years) unearthed in three different states: Florida, Virginia, and Illinois.

So my photography goals for this bird include: getting a picture of one on a sunny day, and also getting a picture of one storing some nuts (or possibly a grasshopper or two) in their food cache.