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Thursday, 14 November 2019

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Pic à ventre roux) in the manner of Arthur Cleveland Bent

       Inscribed in the honour roll of American ornithologists, the name Arthur Cleveland Bent (1866-1954) takes pride of place among many notables. He is widely known for his monumental (and this is an instance where the word is not used lightly) 21-volume Life Histories of North American Birds. To this day, if you examine the bibliography of contemporary ornithological works, reference to Bent is commonplace. His work has stood the test of time.
     Bent is not only renowned for his scholarly discipline, but also for the whimsical, almost folksy style in which he wrote. Make no mistake, he did not lack sophistication for he was a Harvard alumnus, but he perhaps aimed his treatise at a lay audience as much as to fellow ornithologists, and the results are delightful. Whenever I refer to Bent (alas I have only  two volumes) I always linger longer than I need to, simply to take pleasure in reading his accounts.
     I thought it would be fun to try my hand at this, and so I will attempt to convey the flavour of Bent to you in the following piece on Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus). I am under no illusion that I will approach his mastery of this style, but I hope that I will be able to impart to you some of the sheer fun to be had from reading his work.


Red-bellied Woodpecker

     The Red-bellied Woodpecker no doubt was named by someone suffering from an excess of libation, or possessed of a perverse sense of humour, for the alleged red belly is little more than a smudge on the lower regions, and not frequently seen by the casual observer.



     Nevertheless, as you may readily conclude from an examination of the male  above, he is a very handsome chap, with red nape and cap, and a stout bill with which to probe every crevice, every stump, in search of delicacies such as spiders, grubs and arthropods of all kinds that happen to cross his path.



    Furthermore he is not above dining on fruit, berries, nuts and the like, and should an opportunity present itself he does not eschew the eggs or young of other birds. Even small mammals and a careless frog do not escape the attention of this catholic diner.



          Usually found in his woodland home, he is quick to exploit friendly environs provided by human habitation, where a buffet table of seed and fat is often laid out for him.



      He is not shy to announce his presence by uttering a deep churr call, hoping that the ladies of the area pay attention to this sound. He is declaring jurisdiction over his domain, and also announcing his availability as a suitor.



      The object of his ardour is similar to the male, but the red does not form a hood, and only her nape is clothed in crimson.


   
      Her head is grey at the top, nor does she support the the orange blush on her cheeks as featured in the male. Confident in her beauty, she perhaps has no need for further ostentation.






     The female is vocal in this species, although not so much as the male, but sweet calls are exchanged between the two sexes to establish a pair bond before nesting. Although calling throughout the year, but especially in late winter and spring, they do not consort together until the requisite hormonal changes incite their instincts, at which time they may be seen together at all times. Once sexually charged in this manner both sexes exchange low-pitched grr sounds, reflecting no doubt their passion for each other. Indeed, the female often initiates copulation by mounting the male, a curious behaviour one might conclude, but it serves to incite the male to perform his duty.
     

     

     The culmination of their union is a nest hole prepared mostly by the male, but with assistance from the female at the end of the process, where no doubt specific requirements are taken care of; in the way of humans, the female arrogates to herself the choice of final decor and other details of the home.
     Four to six eggs are laid and both devoted parents take part in incubation, the male generally assuming the night shift. When the young hatch they are provisioned by both parents who do not lack in industry in ensuring the healthy development of their brood.
     Once the young woodpeckers leave the nest the ties of devotion between the two former lovers is severed and they go their separate ways. In the following season they may serendipitously renew their tryst, but more likely they will find a new partner, and begin the whole process anew.

     

76 comments:

  1. Hello, wonderful post on both Arthur Cleveland Bent and the Red-bellied Woodpecker. I do enjoy seeing all the woodpeckers, I have a few different kinds visiting my feeders. Beautiful photos. Wishing you a happy day!

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  2. Hola David, no conocía esta ave y me parece realmente bonita, muchas gracias y un fuerte abrazo.

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  3. Wonderful, David. I've often felt that the people who write bird books have forgotten that most of us watch birds for fun.

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  4. Es un ave preciosa amigo David y tus magnificas explicaciones de buen profesor hacen de una grata y amena lectura para conocer un poco más estos magníficos ejemplares. Ha sido todo un placer leer tan estupendas explicaciones sobre el Carpintero de vientre rojo.
    Un fuerte abrazo de tu siempre amigo Juan.

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  5. These woodpeckers are beautiful, we don't have them here. The works m Bent sound good, thanks for the information. Have a great day, Valerie

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  6. Hello dear David,
    It's a beautiful bird. I like woodpeckers very much. I have a woodpeckers here too. They have driven me to madness sometimes with their noices 😉

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  7. Hari OM
    David, I loved that you set yourself a literary challenge as well as an ornithological one - success, as far as this reader is concerned! YAM xx

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  8. C'est vrai que c'est plus la tête qui est rousse que le ventre.
    C'est très bien écrit!
    Ce sont de très beaux oiseaux.
    Bonne soirée, ici il neige, mais on en a pas autant que chez vous.

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  9. This woodpecker is not located in Europe, but we have the middle spotted woodpecker (Dendrocoptes medius) that looks like him!

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  10. What a beautiful woodpecker, it's nice to see it close-up.

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  11. Such a beautiful woodpecker! And stunning photos!
    And indeed: he is a very handsome chap ;-)
    Beautiful lyrical description.
    Best wishes, Maria

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  12. Se nota que está confiado y que se encuentra en un lugar resultado. Tiene esta ave un color precioso.

    Besos

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  13. Ours are quite comical as they insist on hanging on the feeder to eat sunflower seeds. They grasp the tray with their feet like they were climbing a tree and are bent nearly in half to reach the seeds. Yeah, somebody was nuts when they named them red-bellied!

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  14. The description is comprehensive and enthusiastic. Love the style!

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  15. Thank you David for your very good explanations. Yes, the female is very beautiful. The male is very gentlemanly him ;-)
    Woodpeckers are often very red in Canada, aren't they?
    Bisous de France.

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  16. Beautiful photos and good information. I always enjoy seeing woodpeckers in my yard as long as they stay off of my house!

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  17. I did enjoy seeing all the wonderful photographs of the is beautiful looking bird.
    Loved your descriptions and writing style to :)

    All the best Jan

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  18. Wonderful takes of these pretty birds!

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  19. I find woodpeckers very appealing birds and love to see them exploring and flitting about in our trees. I also love to hear and see them drilling during the Springtime.
    Yesterday we had a Greater Spotted Woodpecker visiting us.

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  20. I can see why you linger over your Bent volumes if he writes like you have. I smiled and chuckled several times when reading about this woodpecker. The style was fresh and easy to read but still informative. Much better than some dry old tomb that is full of technical information (although to be fair, I suppose there is a place for such books). Well done, David.

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  21. Beautiful bird, the photos are clear.

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  22. Quite interesting plumage...so nice!

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  23. Hi David.

    A beautiful woodpecker super nicely colored.
    Beautiful pictures.

    Greeting from Patricia.

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  24. Jag har alltid uppskattat ditt vackra och levande språk David. Detta inlägg är ett lysande exempel på hur man kan beskriva någonting som gör att intresset vaknar även hos de som inte är insatta i ämnet, det är oerhört fint beskrivet. Det är ett illustrativt språk som berör det känslomässiga hos oss människor, när jag läser texten känner jag mig personligen bekant med den trevliga hackspetten och hans dagliga bestyr och familjebildning.
    I hela mitt liv har jag uppskattat vackra texter, konsten att formulera sig och väcka gehör hos läsaren genom en känslomässig kontakt som förmedlas via texten. Vi kommunicerar lika mycket genom kroppsspråk som via ord, av den anledningen kräver en text så mycket mera av författaren för att väcka intresse.
    Tack för ett trevligt och tänkvärt inlägg.

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  25. What a beautiful bird!
    I love this woodpecker, especially on the photo #4.
    Your photos are perfect, David.

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  26. Your writing is beautiful David! I bet if Bent was alive today, the two of you would have a wonderful time conversing about your beloved flying friends. My favorite line here is "Confident in her beauty, she perhaps has no need for further ostentation." I love the mating description. Very witty!

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  27. Hi David,
    The Red-bellied Woodpecker is a very beautiful bird.
    All the photos are fantastic, but I especially loved the 7th.
    Maria

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  28. Love seeing these close ups, so well captured and learning about them along the way.
    Thank you!

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  29. Hi David. Thank you for the comment that you made on my blog. Most welcome, and in a style that Arthur would appreciate.

    I’m not familiar with Arthur Bent (a name that would fit to a T many of our politicians) but I understand the style of writing you imitate. I have a volume “British Birds In Their Haunts” by The Rev C.A. Johns, in a similar form and first published 1862, a book I dip into on a regular basis where there is much information long since forgotten or superseded by more modernist techniques of writing. Authors of that time did not have the paraphernalia of sound recording , digital cameras or the Internet to help their writing . They were totally dependent upon their words to describe birds and jizz accurately - looks habits, calls, song and habitat. I think you did job. Arthur would be impressed.

    Cracking pictures by yourself and Miriam.

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  30. Your attempt to emulate Mr. Bent has been successful, in my opinion!

    Someone in a bird club in Maryland gave me a dog-eared volume of "Life Histories ..." a VERY long time ago and I credit Mr. Bent's writing style with motivating me to travel the path of a birder. For which I am forever grateful.

    Your photographs are superb!

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  31. Fabulous, David! I found this to be delightfully entertaining AND very informative. I see that copies of many of his books can be found on Amazon at very reasonable prices - might treat myself to his Birds of Prey Pt2. I hope his writing style is as good as yours, above!

    I'm always struck by the apparent luminosity of the red on the Red-bellied Woodpecker - wonderful!

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    1. I am happy to hear that it was both entertaining and informative, Richard.

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  32. A wonderful bird and great photo's of you both. This is a handsom species!

    Have a great weekend,
    Marianne

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  33. hello David
    You can only see such colorful birds in the zoo or bird park, thank you for pointing
    Greetings Frank

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  34. Muy buenas fotografías y explicaciones. Miriam es buena fotógrafa, yo no. Besos para los dos.

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  35. Just love these images and your prose.

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  36. These are the most common woodpeckers where I live, followed closely by the Downies. They are always fun to watch in the yard and at my bird feeders.

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  37. What a nice little bird! Thanks for the info and lovely photos :) I hope I can see some woodpeckers some day!

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  38. Hello David, I enjoyed this post on the Red-bellied Woodpecker. The photos are awesome! Thank you for linking up! Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend. PS, thanks for leaving me a comment.

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  39. I love that chatty and conversational style - and your photos are terrific. In fact, I suspect Bent would have jumped at the chance to write the words to your illustrations! I sometimes wish you'd come over here and photograph some British birds!

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  40. Very nice photos of this woodpecker David. I think we haven't read bellied woodpeckers in the Netherlands. They are very beautiful.

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    1. You are right, Caroline, they are not found in Europe.

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  41. Wow, what a beautiful bird is the Red-bellied Woodpecker.
    Great photos you made David.
    Very beautiful to see.
    Greetings Tinie

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  42. Love your captures of the Red-bellied Woodpecker. Well done!

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  43. I can't decide what I enjoyed more - your photos or your words to describe this little fellow. I had no idea that they would actually eat small mammals or frogs - my understanding was that they look for insects in the bark of trees. I stand corrected and love that I learned something. Thank you.

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  44. I really enjoyed reading about these woodpeckers and learning more about them. We usually hear them before we see them here in FL. They are common around here but still very fun to see. Thanks for sharing this! Enjoy your weekend!

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  45. I enjoyed this post a lot! Thanks!

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  46. Wonderful images of the Red-bellied Woodpecker, it's prefect.

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  47. Wow...incredibly GORGEOUS photos!

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  48. Beautiful photos!
    There is a pair of them that come to my suet feeder each Winter - lots of fun to watch!
    Have a wonderful day!

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  49. Amigo David, se agradecen las buenas explicaciones que nos das para conocer y apreciar mejor a esta ave, además de las fotos que son preciosas.
    Me gusta este pájaro de capuchón rojo y lo curioso que los machos siempre tengan un aspecto más llamativo que las hembras, una manera de llamar la atención para formar familia, ellas son discretas y no tienen más que elegir.
    Besos grandes!

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  50. I really love your blog. I learned SO much about the woodpecker, because I don't see them here in my midwest city (Wichita, KS, USA). I think the thing that struck me the most was how the two mates sever all ties once the babies are raised. Somehow I find that sad, but often true in nature.

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  51. Ten dzięcioł jest piękny. Nie ma takiego w Europie. Podoba mi sie trzecie zdjęcie - świetnie złapane!
    A samiczka jeszcze piękniejsza. Taka delikatna!

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  52. You wrote a joyful rollicking natural history of this pretty bird and I am sure your mentor (were he still around) would enjoy it Immensely ... as did your readers, many of whom probably) have not had a chance to read Mr Bent (but would like to). . I did not know all the info you shared, but am a bit familiar with the red bellied and your first sentence I certainly believe. It’s a very small bit of red. Loved this. You are fortunate to even have two volumes of his massive work!

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  53. Hi David,
    You absolutely were succesful in writing the accompanying text in a colourful way. Speaking of colours, the name of this bird is a question of humor or an incredible mistake. "LOL" . Maybe the person who gave this bird its name wasn't able to see colours properly. Anyway, the bird is a beauty, the pictures simply great.
    Greetings, Kees

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  54. The head has a color that makes the bird easy to recognize.

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  55. A great batch of photos of the RBWO...I think "flame headed woodpecker" would be another appropriate name for them since their red leans more toward orange. Have a great week.

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  56. Hello David, This is great writing and although I am not familiar with the writing of Arthur Cleveland Bent, you did a wonderful job. As always Miriam made some stunning photo's of the birds you described so well.
    Warm regards,
    Roos

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  57. what a gorgeous little fellow. I love the red and the markings on his wings. You would love the giant aviary in the Territory Wildlife Park in the Northern Territory (on my blog this week) of Australia, also the Desert Park in Alice Springs. Have a great week and thank you for visiting my blog last week.

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  58. this birs is really nice and interesting flying creature:) follow:) hope U follow back:)

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  59. Hello David!

    Very beautiful woodpecker, great feathered.
    I am delighted with your photos and relation.
    I send hugs and greetings.

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  60. Hello my friend David :-)
    I am really completely lost on this beautiful woodpecker! As you know I love owls very much but also woodpeckers. The woodpeckers abroad are therefore many times more beautiful. This woodpecker is really a beautiful specimen and also nicely photographed.
    I have enjoyed this.
    Dear greetings from your girlfriend from Holland xx

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  61. Beautiful woodpecker, what beautiful colors it has! Good idea to feed them with bird food. Nice photos and complete information.

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  62. You do such fine work, David. Your header is magnificent.

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  63. Hi Both,
    Wonderful set of images of this beautiful Woodpecker, both the Male and Female are so wonderfully marked
    All the best,
    John

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  64. this is such a sweet looking bird :)

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  65. Es precioso David. Gracias por las fotos. Nunca lo he visto al natural.
    Un abrazo.

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  66. Hello David,
    Very great pictures of this wonderful woodpecker. So nice with his red colored head.

    Greetings, Marco

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