Friday, 29 December 2017

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Pic à ventre roux) on our feeder

28 December 2017

     Recently all of North America has been experiencing a monumental cold snap, the like of which has seldom been seen before. Overnight from 27 December to 28 December in the Region of Waterloo we broke a record which had stood for a hundred years when the mercury plunged to minus 24.2°C, and taking into account wind chill, minus 31°C.
     Resident birds have to survive in these conditions at a time when we are barely past the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, and they still have minimal hours in which to forage.
     We feed birds primarily for the pleasure they bring us it must be said, but under these conditions our feathered friends really do need a helping hand.
     As far as I can recall we have only seen Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) twice before in our backyard, and then only as a casual visitor. We had not previously witnessed it feeding.
     Imagine our delight, therefore, when we looked out to see a female feeding on one of our suet feeders.

     You can even see the feint smudge of a red belly from which this species gets its name.
     This was not a casual visit to the feeder, the bird stayed there for quite a while and bolted down as much food as it could pry from the frozen block of suet.

     Not only did it feed voraciously the first time around, about an hour later we observed it back at the feeder gorging again. We can only hope that this intake of fat will buffer the bird against the cold and help it to survive the long, dark, bitterly cold night.
     Today we were occupied with the Linwood Christmas Bird Count so we were not at home to see whether the bird returned, but we hope it did, and we further hope that it will make our yard a regular stop, even when these dire conditions have ended.
     Tomorrow, one or the other of us will be home most of the day, so we will keep a close eye on the feeders to see whether the bird returns to take advantage of the food we have on offer. Today I installed an additional suet feeder so perhaps it will bring a friend!


  1. Beautiful photographs ...the birds do love suet.
    Hope everyone can stay warm!

    All the best Jan

  2. It is wicked cold here. Crikey. Daisy now has a cold. I'm so sad.
    I've never seen one of these, red-headed, I don't think!
    Happy New Year!

  3. Rather a pretty bird.
    Oh how cold that must be to a Tasmanian - 24.2 degC, just can't imagine. I suppose it's what you get used to as with all things.
    Happy New Year to you and your wife.

  4. Nice to see that! Still haven't seen one myself. Your header picture is amazing!

  5. Hola David. Que maravilla poder disfrutar de tan precioso pájaro. No se como aguantan el frío, ya que aquí lo menos que suele haber es -10 y algunos no aguantan. Enhorabuena por vuestro enorme corazón. Feliz y maravilloso año para ti y tu familia. Un enorme abrazo lleno de cariño.

  6. Hi David.

    Beautiful woodpecker.,

    Groettie from Patricia.

  7. WOW! That IS cold, David! Our cold spell has now gone and it's up to 8°C here, but damp and windy.

    I can well understand you excitement at getting this wonderful 'pecker visiting you. I hope that it turns out to be a regular visitor. I guess you'll have checked you have an ample supply of suet blocks.

    With love to you both - - - Richard

  8. A great bird to see out of the back window..........

  9. Beautiful pictures !!
    Happy New Year !!

  10. Hello, great captures of the red-bellied woodie. They are beautiful birds. They do love the suet, I see them often at my feeders. I appreciate all your visits and comments on my blog in 2017. I wish you and yours all the best in 2018, Happy New Year. Have a happy weekend!

  11. fantastic , I am wanting to attract these to my suet feeder , I have seen downy wood peckers so far! -Jeff

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  13. Hari OM
    It's gorgeous. As are the bee-eaters on your banner! On the count-down now. All the best for Hogmanay. It turned really cold here too, but not quite as low as you have there. YAM xx

  14. You have to help the birds to help them survive the cold and snowy winter. Your "guest" at the feeder is lovely. Greetings and I wish you a happy New Year.

  15. Fantastic.. Love it..Happy New Year .. Best wishes for 2018

  16. HI Both,
    Wow that's really getting cold, but your feathered friends will most certainly stand a better chance of survival with your help with food.
    Also such a beautiful Woodpecker, obviously very appreciative of your suet offering.
    All the best for 2018 to you both. John

  17. The Red Bellied is such a beautiful bird and I know you enjoy seeing them at your feeder!

  18. Hello David!
    Great captures of the red bellied woodie!
    Wonderful pictures!
    I really enjoyed your pictures with the snowy owl!
    One of my favorite birds!
    I love birds and birdwatching too!
    Thank you for visiting my post!
    Happy new year with joy and happiness to you and your family!
    Greetings from Greece!

  19. Happy New Year 2018 ! Kauniita kuvia kauniissa blogissa .... !


  20. Hello David!
    How thrilling to see this pecker at your feeder!
    I wish you and Miriam a great new year and great birding too,
    Besos y abrazos amigos :)

  21. Oh my, to see a Woody at the feeder, superb. David and Miriam have a wonderful new year 2018.

  22. What a greet picture of this woodpecker. Have a wonderful 2018.
    kind regards, Ghita

  23. Amazing captures of the woodpecker. I hope it gets warmer soon in your part of the world.
    Wishing you and your family and friends a Happy New Year.

  24. Happy new year dear David and happy birding !
    Your futur travel will be fantastic !
    This month we go to Ethiopia.
    Amazing woodpecker. Here "my" birds eat the same bread ;-)

  25. Fantastic shots of the woodpecker. I've been hearing how cold it is across the country and even not so very far from where I live where they get much more snow. From time to time when we get more snow I also set out food for the birds. I'm stopping by today to thank you for your visits and comments to my blog and to wish you a fantastic new year in 2018! I look forward to seeing more of your lovely bird photos.

  26. It's a pity that it takes such severe weather to get this into your yard. Happy New Year to you - despite the big freeze.
    Let's hope the wildlife isn't too badly affected...

  27. This kind of weather may be why you have far more garden birds than we do. The last time it was that cold in Australia, it was still sitting over the south pole!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  28. Hello David,
    Fantastic pictures of the woodpecker.
    I've heard how cold it is in your country, it was even here on television
    Happy new year 2018 with health and happiness for you and your family.
    Best regards, Irma

  29. Your attitude of feeding the birds in these very adverse conditions is so praiseworthy, so cold that we can not even imagine here, also very contrasting with what I experienced at that time in Brazil and in the subtropical forest of Misiones, with more than 35C but with a humidity close to 100%, unbearable to be in the sun in those conditions but still enjoyed a lot.
    Very nice that kind of woodpecker
    Happy 2018

  30. I am worried about people and birds (not necessarily in that order) during this cold snap. Thank you for taking care of the birds in your yard -- we see those red-bellies here in our Florida resort in the Spring (probably they are here during the winter too, but not in our neighborhood because of all the activity and people). Stay warm both of you.

  31. That's awfully cold. I feel sorry for humans as well as wildlife. Well done helping the birds.

  32. When it's cold, I feel sorry especially for the poor people and the wildlife. The wealthier just adjust their thermostats. I almost think the small birds chirp "thank you", when you bring more food to them. :)
    I hope the weather there has become warmer by now. Our winter has been mild, now a little bit lower temperatures are expected.
    The new header photo is gorgeous. Speaking of gems... in this blog, only precious photos are published. It's a treat also for us not-very-advanced-ornithologists. :)
    Happy New Year! xx

    1. Hello again, I'm sorry that it took more than 4 weeks for the card to arrive! It was meant of course to arrive well before Christmas.
      Have a great week!

  33. It's a lovely woodpecker and I can understand that you were very pleased to see it in your garden but I cannot even imagine what it is to survive at minus 24 or minus 30 degrees Celsius. Sounds really terrible to me.
    Hope the worst is gone by now an that people and wildlife can live a bit more relaxed now, pffft.

    Kind regards,

    1. It has indeed been a brutal winter so far, Marianne, but the conditions are somewhat better now. And, encouragingly, the days are already getting longer so the birds have a little more time in which to forage.