• • •First of all, Red-bellied Woodpeckers do not have a red belly, beyond an occasional pale smudge. They do have a striking red cowl that runs from their bill, over the top of their head and down the back of their neck. Unfortunately, the name “Red-headed Woodpecker” was already taken.
Like many of their cousins, they have a barred back and tail, a heavy bill and sharp talons to climb the side of a tree. The female has a red neck but a buff crown. The Golden-fronted Woodpecker is similar but has only a small red crown and a golden neck.
They live in woodlands, parks and forested wetlands, foraging for insects, berries and seeds from the trunks and limbs of trees. They will use the fork of a trunk as an anvil as they break up seeds and will cache food for later use. They have a distinctive “churrr” call and drum loudly with rapid pecks to communicate with their neighbors.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers build a home by excavating a hole in a dead tree or limb. They’ll adopt existing holes of other birds or readily take to a birdhouse. They lay three to eight white eggs on a bed of wood chips left from their construction work.