On a visit to Lynde Shores Conservation Area in Whitby, Ontario, Bob and I managed to sight a Red-bellied Woodpecker late in the afternoon beneath cloudy skies, high in a treetop.
Thinking at first that the bird was one of the three male cardinals we had seen earlier, we scrutinized the forest canopy for confirmation . There, on the side of a very tall tree, sat the Red-bellied Woodpecker, quite oblivious to our presence.
This male member of the species was clinging securely to the bark of the tree as it foraged for insects and larvae. 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. I strategically placed some peanuts-in-the-shell nearby, at a feeder, but the woodpecker was intent on his pursuits and failed to notice them.
Bob and I had visited the conservation area that morning, and were shocked at the absence of birds compared to the other day. Of course, there was the regular contingent of chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches, and flitting from tree to tree were also several red-winged blackbirds as well as a number of male and female cardinals.
It was difficult to get good photos of the woodpecker because of the bright overcast sky behind the bird, but I persevered, adjusting the camera’s aperture setting, and managed to get some satisfactory pictures. We observed the woodpecker for about a half hour, but it remained high above us with no opportunity for a real closeup view.
The Red-bellied Woodpecker is often mistaken for the Red-headed Woodpecker, but both male and female Red-headed Woodpeckers have entirely crimson heads and necks, snow-white bodies, and half white, half inky black wings. The male Red-bellied Woodpecker, on the other hand, has a red forehead, cap and nape of the neck, with a strikingly black and white barred back.
The gleaming red cap of the male Red-bellied Woodpecker is an unforgettable sight. Females have a red patch on the nape and another above the bill.
Bob and I had begun our day with a visit along the Bird Feeder Trail at Lynde Shores Conservation Area, but finding the forest very quiet, we ventured further west and walked both the Waterfront Trail and the Cranberry West Tract. Before heading for home, we returned once again to Lynde Shores, and that is when we were rewarded with the appearance of the Red-bellied Woodpecker. The level of activity in the forest had picked up as the late day feeding frenzy began.