Monday, 29 December 2014

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Pic à ventre roux)

29 December 2014

     Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus is one of only two members of the genus Melanerpes found in our area. Over the past twenty years or so it has expanded dramatically and is now verging on common in this region. In fact, from the completion of the first Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas in the mid 1980s to the termination of the second atlas for the years 2001 - 2005 the population had increased by about 250% province-wide.
     It is a very handsome bird indeed, as the following picture shows.

     Part of the reason for its success is no doubt warmer mean winter temperatures and the varied and eclectic diet of this species. It does not fit the stereotypical image of a woodpecker clinging to a tree, chiseling away at the bark or drilling holes in a search for insect prey. 

Red-bellied Woodpeckers feed on a wide variety of fruits, nuts, acorns, berries, corn, and will readily consume sunflower seeds at a backyard bird feeder.
     In addition they take a range of invertebrate prey, including beetles, ants, grasshoppers, snails and pretty much anything else they can capture.
     They are also known to eat tree frogs, small mammals, small fish, and even the young of other species such as Black-capped Chickadees Parus atricapillus. This practice of feeding on the young of other species is not confined to Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and I remember reading about the predation of Great Spotted Woodpeckers Picoides major on Blue Tits Parus caeruleus in Britain. The woodpeckers would listen at a nest box and when they heard the young inside they would drill through the wooden sides in order to capture the young tits. This led to the development of a kind of concrete compound nest box to foil the would be assassin.
     Today this individual was feeding on whole corn kernels left on the top of a log.

     It was joined by several other species, including Black-capped Chickadee and
White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis to take advantage of what was very obviously an easy meal.
     Red-bellied Woodpecker is our second largest woodpecker in North America and perhaps because of its sheer size whenever it came to feed the other birds left it alone to feed at will.

     The following picture of a White-breasted Nuthatch shows the size of an intact kernel of corn (maize). No doubt what was a mouthful for a chickadee or a nuthatch was a mere morsel for the woodpecker.

     We drove around for a while visiting several of our regular birding spots and were well rewarded in the little hamlet of Glen Allen with this adult Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus, another species becoming quite common in the region. We had earlier seen a first or second year bird at nearby Conestogo Lake, but nothing quite rivals the spectacular grace and beauty of an adult bird.


  1. It's certainly a handsome bird, and interesting to know that it's increasing in your area. I do like that second photo.

  2. Excelentes fotografías, el primer pájaro es espectacular. Un fuerte abrazo y los mejores deseos para 2015.

  3. Wonderful variety of birds. I love the woodpecker shots. I wish you all the best in 2015.. Happy New Year!

  4. Beautiful pictures of the woodpecker, what a beautiful bird that is.
    I wish you a happy new year.
    Greetings Tinie

  5. Nice bird, but I still haven't seen one. You've changed your blog - I hardly recognized it!

  6. Hello David,
    The woodpecker has stolen my heart, what a beautiful photos.
    I wish you and all your loved ones a very happy and healthy 2015.
    Best regards, Irma

  7. I suspect that, if the opportunities to see different species in UK were not so limited, woodpeckers would be my next favourite family of birds to owls. That Red-bellied Woodpecker is utterly gorgeous, David.

    See you next year!!

  8. Great pictures !
    Happy New Year !

  9. Hi David,
    your photos are excellent during the whole year. Thank you for all your kind comments.
    I wish for you and your family all the best for the New Year 2015 !
    Best regards, Synnöve

  10. Hello David,
    What a wonderful shots!!
    So great how you've photographed this amazing colored woodpecker. Well done!!

    I wish you all happiness and health for 2015!!

    Best regards,

  11. It's good to hear of a species that is on the increase during so many difficult years for birds. It is certainly a very attractive species and you took some fine photo there David.

    The Great spotted Woodpecker may be implicated in the demise of the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker,the latter decreasing as the Great-spotted thrives.

    Happy New Year.

  12. Hi David!
    I really enjoy the new look of your blog, quite a face-lift!!
    Sad we don't have this species of pecker, this one is sooooo handsome!
    A great post with lovely birds, congrats for the Bald eagle :-)
    I saw the Zitting cisticola at Mazères in Ariège, this bird sanctuary I mentioned already in some posts. A place we discovered after you left... unfortunately, otherwise we would have taken you there ;-)
    You mention there are several species but we have only this one in France.
    I have waited for some time before seeing this first individual, but it was quite far...
    Hugs from the both us to be shared with Miriam!!

  13. He is gorgeous, David. We don't have this bird in our country. Your pictures are fantastic and it's very interesting to read your information. I wish you a great new year with a lot of photogenic moments. Greetings from the Netherlands, Joke

  14. Stunning shots there David.
    Happy new year to you and yours.
    Atb Mike

  15. Ohhhhhhhh ...... what a gewldige picture is that first! Wonderful to see this woodpecker. You really are a lucky man David! I'm really jealous of these gorgeous pictures of the woodpecker.

    I wish you and all your loved ones a very nice, happy
    but above all a healthy 2015.

    that we are in this new year of each other's photos and beautiful moments
    can and should enjoy.

    Greetings, Helma

  16. Nuthatches like to stock up:-) but I think those foods were too big for him :)