Red bellied woodpecker

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Red bellied woodpecker
Melanerpes carolinus

The Red bellied woodpecker has a red head and darker grey wings with white patches, the underparts are white, the name comes from a small splash of red orange on it's belly. Females have a red patch on the nape and another above the bill. Male and female are about nine inches long, with a wingspan of 13-16 inches and weigh two to three ounces. They have been spotted year round on the trail. Juvenile red-bellied woodpeckers are similar in appearance to adults, but have a horn-colored bill and lack any red on their heads. Red-bellied woodpeckers do not show seasonal variation in the coloration.

The Red bellied woodpecker forages on limbs and tree trunks of deciduous trees. They prefer eating beetles, grasshoppers, ants, acorns, beechnuts and fruits. During winter, their diet is mostly seeds and can often be found at birdfeeders. They are also able to store food in crevices of tree bark for later consumption. You may sometimes see Red-bellied Woodpeckers wedge large nuts into bark crevices, then whack them into manageable pieces using their beaks.

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. Two toes face forward, and two face rearward. This arrangement enables the woodpecker to grasp the bark of tree trunks as it forages for food or excavates a cavity, and to easily back out of a tree hole.

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. The oldest known Red-bellied Woodpecker was 12 years old.

Red-bellied woodpeckers are noisy birds, and have many varied calls. Males tend to call and drum more frequently than females, but both sexes call. Often, these woodpeckers "drum" to attract mates. They tap on aluminum roofs, metal guttering, hollow trees and even transformer boxes, in urban environments, to communicate with potential partners.
Click for Red bellied woodpecker sounds.

Though this bird mainly eats insects, spiders, and other arthropods, it eats plenty of plant material, too. In particular, acorns, nuts, and pine cones, as well as seeds extracted from annual and perennial plants and particularly in fall and winter fruits ranging from grapes and hackberries to oranges and mangoes. Occasionally eats lizards, nestling birds, and even minnows. Red bellies will also eat oranges intended for orioles and sugar water from hummingbird feeders.

Cavity nests in dead trees hardwoods or pines, dead limbs of live trees, and fence posts. The same pair may nest in the same tree year after year, but typically excavate a new cavity each year, often placing the new one beneath the previous year’s.

Predators of adult red-bellied woodpeckers include birds of prey such as sharp-shinned hawks and Cooper's hawks, black rat snakes and house cats. Known predators of nestlings and eggs include red-headed woodpeckers, Owls, pileated woodpeckers, gray rat snakes and black rat snakes. When approached by a predator, red-bellied woodpeckers either hide from the predator, or harass it with alarm calls. They defend their nests and young aggressively, and may directly attack predators that come near the nest.

These birds often stick to main branches and trunks of trees, where they hitch in classic woodpecker fashion, leaning away from the trunk and onto their stiff tail feathers as they search for food hiding in bark crevices. When nesting, males choose the site and begin to excavate, then try to attract a female by calling and tapping softly on the wood around or in the cavity. When a female accepts, she taps along with the male, then helps put the finishing touches on the nest cavity.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers lay their eggs on the bed of wood chips left over after excavating their nest cavity. Nest holes are 22 to 32 centimeters deep, with a cylindrical living space of roughly 9 by 13 centimeters.

Red-bellied woodpeckers tap their bills together when they are courting. The female lays three to eight eggs a day apart. Both the male and female incubate the eggs and care for the young. The male incubates at night. The chicks hatch in about three weeks and they fledge in about a month. The chicks usually stay with their parents until the fall.

Usually breed once per year. Breeding pairs do not appear to stay together for more than one season. A recommended birdhouse for the size of a Red bellied woodpecker should have dimensions of 7 x 9 x 18h with an entry hole of about 2 ˝” in diameter. The house should have a sturdy gable roof construction with a side cleanout. Since they are used to living on tree holes, it should be mounted and screwed firmly on a tree 10-20 feet above the ground.

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