Named for the faint red wash on its belly, this handsome woodpecker is a delight to observe. Red-bellied woodpeckers inhabit wooded neighborhoods, tree-filled parks, and secluded woodlands, where they forage for nuts and fruits and probe tree bark for insects and larvae.
LOOK for a good-sized woodpecker with mostly buff undersides and a distinctive scarlet head patch running from nape (back of neck) to bill on males. Red-bellies are often called “zebrabacks” because of their barred, black-and-white backs and wings. Their black bill is long and sturdy, with a barbed tongue that extends 2 inches beyond.
LISTEN for the red-belly’s loud chuck-chuck-chuck or its rolling and harsh kwirrrrrrrr.
WATCH a red-bellied woodpecker stash an acorn, hickory nut, beechnut, or pine seed into a crack in a tree or fencepost.
KNOW that the male red-belly excavates a nest cavity in a dead or dying tree and attracts a female by “drumming” near the hole with his beak.
ATTRACT these woodpeckers with peanuts, suet, and sunflower seeds.
DID YOU KNOW that a red-bellied woodpecker will wedge a nut into a tree crack or bark crevice and pound the item open with its beak?
— Tom Carpenter
Photo: Ron Austing