Today's post is a request from a friend and follower of my Facebook page. She writes "...if you find a Red-headed Woodpecker this fellow redhead would love to see a picture of yours!"
Well, Fee - up until a couple of months ago the only picture I would have been able to show you was of a Red-headed Woodpecker waaaay off in the distance. These birds can be found in parts of New England but sightings are somewhat rare - especially in my neck of the woods. So, while it was a cool experience to see him, it wasn't the best experience photographically.
However, on a recent trip down to Florida, that all changed. A fellow photographer put me onto this bird and I'm very grateful!
The Red-headed Woodpecker is a stunning bird to see and its eye-catching plumage has earned it the nickname "Flying Checkerboard." They also have some very unique characteristics. Oh sure, they practice the "normal" woodpecker behavior of pounding on wood - but unlike other woodpeckers, these guys will also catch insects mid-air! However, their favorite food is acorns and beech nuts, and they are often seen hiding food away for later. (In fact, I caught this woodpecker doing just that - but I promised him I wouldn't tell anyone where his secret cache was...so...Shhhhh.... Don't tell him you saw this picture!) These birds are one of only four North American Woodpeckers that are known to store food (the others being Downy, Acorn and Red-bellied) - and the ONLY one known to cover its food with wood or bark.
Unfortunately, this species is in severe decline and while the reasons for decline are not well known, it is most likely due to habitat loss, loss of potential nesting sites due to cutting of dead trees and competition with introduced cavity-nesting birds such as European Starlings. Because of this, it is extremely important that we support management programs that benefit this species - such as thinning and prescribed fire on ecologically appropriate sites. It is only then that we will be able to work on restoring healthy populations of these beautiful birds and, perhaps some day, I will be able to see one of these beautiful birds again. Yes, indeed, "Redheads are remembered!"
(Click on the images above to see more Woodpecker images in the Woodpecker Gallery)
Osceola County, FL