The Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) is a medium-sized woodpecker of the family Picidae. It breeds mainly in the eastern United States, ranging as far south as Florida and as far north as Canada. Its common name is somewhat misleading, as the most prominent red part of its plumage is on the head; the Red-headed Woodpecker, however, is another species that is a rather close relative but looks quite different.
Adults are mainly light gray on the face and underparts; they have black and white barred patterns on their back, wings, and tail. Adult males have a red cap going from the bill to the nape; females have a red patch on the nape and another above the bill. The reddish tinge on the belly that gives the bird its name is difficult to see in field identification. They are 22.85 to 26.7 cm (9.00 to 10.51 in) long and have a wingspan of 38 to 46 cm (15 to 18 in). [Wikipedia]
Red-bellied Woodpeckers are pale, medium-sized woodpeckers common in forests of the East. Their strikingly barred backs and gleaming red caps make them an unforgettable sight – just resist the temptation to call them Red-headed Woodpeckers, a somewhat rarer species that’s mostly black on the back with big white wing patches. Learn the Red-bellied’s rolling call, and you’ll notice these birds everywhere. [All About Birds]
Red-bellied Woodpecker Facts [All About Birds]
- A Red-bellied Woodpecker can stick out its tongue nearly 2 inches past the end of its beak. The tip is barbed, and the bird’s spit is sticky, making it easier to snatch prey from deep crevices. Males have longer, wider-tipped tongues than females, possibly allowing a breeding pair to forage in slightly different places on their territory and maximize their use of available food.
- You may occasionally see a Red-bellied Woodpecker flying quickly and erratically through the forest, abruptly changing direction, alighting for an instant and immediately taking off again, keeping up a quick chatter of calls. Scientists categorize this odd behavior as a type of play that probably helps young birds practice the evasive action they may one day need.
- For birds that nest in cavities, nest holes are precious turf. Red-bellied Woodpeckers have been known to take over the nests of other birds, including the much smaller (and endangered) Red-cockaded Woodpecker. But more often they’re victims to the aggressive European Starling. As many as half of all Red-bellied Woodpecker nests in some areas get invaded by starlings.
- The oldest known Red-bellied Woodpecker was a male in Georgia, and at least 12 years, 3 months old when he was identified in the wild by his band.