On the day after Thanksgiving I was treated to a life-bird, a Red-headed Woodpecker. I don’t maintain a birding life list, but I am aware when I recognize a bird for the first time. And this beauty was a first.
Male and female adult Red-headed Woodpeckers share the same vibrant, full red head with black-and-white “flying checkerboard” pattern. The adult I saw stayed high, feeding in trees in a Maryland marsh.
A juvenile was nearby and, obligingly, fed on tree levels closer to the trail. Juveniles attain their red heads after their winter molt.
Juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker
On a second visit today, the juvenile’s red feathering was visible.
Red feathers emerging along juvenile’s throat
And red on the juvenile’s nape.
Red-headed Woodpeckers are considered “near threatened.” So it is particularly encouraging to learn of an uptick of sightings in the region this fall.
“Red” and “woodpecker” seem to go together in the eastern US, as a few previously published photos illustrate.
Male and female Pileated Woodpeckers have unmistakable red crowns and crests
The male Red-bellied Woodpecker has an impressive red cap to go with that bit of red on the belly
Understandably, Red-bellied Woodpeckers are often misidentified as Red-headed Woodpeckers.
A male Downy Woodpecker shows off its red cap
Our local Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Hairy Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers show red as well. Unlike songbirds, woodpeckers lack a song to woo their mates, so a flash of color has its rewards.