Weekly Puzzler Answer #109

A male red-bellied woodpecker

A male red-bellied woodpecker

If you’re a birder you may have known that last week’s puzzler was made by a red bellied woodpecker. This 9 inch woodpecker is common in the eastern United States and like other woodpeckers, makes its home in cavities in trees.

The red on its belly is not very obvious unless the bird is lying on a table in front of you or hanging from a suet feeder a few feet outside of your window. Through they do have red on their heads, they should not be confused with a true red-headed woodpecker, which as you can see from the pictures below is very different. My ornithology professor in college used to say a red-headed woodpecker looks like someone was holding onto his feet and then dipped his entire head in red paint. You cannot say the same about a red-bellied woodpecker!

A red-HEADED woodpecker

A red-HEADED woodpecker

You can tell a female red-bellied from a male by the amount of red on its head-the red on a male’s head extends down the back of the neck. Look at these pictures:

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Notice that the two red spots connect down the back of his neck

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The female has a spot on the top of her head where the red spots don’t connect

The red-bellied woodpecker, like other woodpeckers, eats insects and other invertebrates. To do this, it has a long, sticky tongue that is barbed for easily grabbing onto insects in holes in wood. Here is a red-bellied with a large beetle… yum! Don’t you wish you were a woodpecker! Also, interestingly enough, this woodpecker also eats plant material such as acorns, nuts, and pine cones, also seeds and fruits. And according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this woodpecker ” Occasionally eats lizards, nestling birds, and even minnows.” Who knew?

Check this out if you’d like to read about some of our other common woodpeckers–the pileated, (more about our largest woodpecker HERE) and yellow-bellied sapsucker. Or click HERE to read about the unique relationship between one of our other woodpeckers and hummingbirds.

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Click HERE for the next puzzler. And hey, don’t forget to use the comment box below to enter your guess for a chance to be eligible for the next prize–to be given away on the first day of summer–June 21st. Every correct guess you give will increase your chances of winning! Good luck.

Have a wonderful weekend. Happy Saturday!

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