Red-bellied Woodpecker


Nature Close to Home and Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist Dave Woehr shares monthly naturalist stories.

LEBANON, OH -- The Red-bellied Woodpecker is one of the most common of Ohio’s seven woodpecker species. A robin-sized bird, it is found in urban neighborhoods as well as rural woodlots. It is easily distinguished by its black and white checkered back and wings, creamy breast, and brilliant red on the head. 

It is not shy at all giving us ample opportunities to observe it as it moves about looking for food. Its diet consists mainly of insects, seeds, berries, and small nuts. It emits several distinguishing calls, quite vocal sometimes with loud machine gun-like outbursts and at other times with a one or two-syllable squirrel-like “bark”. Then, at other times it produces a softer “purr”. It loves suet and sunflower seed so is easily attracted to feeding stations.

In spite of its name, a red belly is not a feature readily observed. Novice birders may question whether they are looking at a Red-bellied Woodpecker or our similar-looking, but slightly larger Northern Flicker. The red belly feathers are well concealed on the lower breast near the tail. 

I browsed through several dozen photographs I’ve taken of the Red-bellied Woodpecker over the years, and only my most recent shot caught the bird positioned in a way that the red belly was obvious. I feel much better now knowing that the bird wasn’t misnamed after all.

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