While visually being able to identify a birds' species is pretty cool, recognition by their call is a whole other mastery. Especially when you stop to think about how the tiny, specific details which make each call or drum so distinct. Take that step a step further with the woodpecker, one of the most audibly familiar birds we know. They too have their own unique drum, specific to that species. Which is where I started off with this profile. Because without fail, whenever I'm wondering through my front yard I can count on hearing the determined beat of a woodpecker above. But I have yet to see him! So going on the drum alone, I've done my best to deduce that this fella is part of the Red-bellied family.
These red-bellied qts are most common in forests, swampy woodlands and wooded backyards of the Eastern US, most commonly the Southeast. These forests specifically can include pine-hardwood, oak-hickory, and maple-poplar oak - northernmost birds in southern Canada, breeding as far south as Florida, as far west as Texas. Not a migratory bird, red-bellies can be found in these eastern woodlands all year round. They tend to stay at a medium tee height or along main branches, making them easy to hear (and spot).
Nesting & Breeding
Red-bellies lay their nests in cavities in dead pine or hardwood trees or dead branches of said variety. While these birds have known to nest in the same tree over years, they often move below or above of that same tree for their new nest. Never shy of a turf-war, these birds often take over the nests of others, including the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Be it karma, as many as half of all of their own nests are often invaded by starlings.
During the breeding period, which begins around April and May, the monogamous Red-bellied birds allow the male to choose the site of their future love nest and begin preparing the cavity. After the renovation has begun, they soon attempt to attract the female by their soft taps within the cavity space. If the female accepts his holla, she will tap along side the male and add her housewife charm to putting the final touches on their nest cavity.
After the babies are born, the male will often forage for food in expanded territory than the female - this being that the male's barbed and sticky tongue sticks out nearly 2 more inches past its beak.
Despite their name, the red belly of this Woodpecker can often be hard to spot, as its a paler shade in comparison to their brighter red crown. They are a medium-sized bird and display marked red caps and black-and-white striped back, wing, and tail. Adult males sport this red cap on their entire crown. from the bill all the way to their nape. Adult females have smaller red patches on their nape above the bill.
Be sure not to confuse this bird with the Red-headed Woodpecker, which is now considered to be a rare species.
Drums & Calls
The familiar hammering of a woodpecker is their own drumming, and uniquely varies from species by speed, verbosity, and gender. The male drum is loud and steady, clocking in around 19 beets per second. The most common call from this bird is a shrill. Between mates, you can expect to hear a lower growl. Click here to listen to their drums and calls.
These birds are easy to attract, especially to feeders near wooded outskirts. In this warmer season they like to munch on peanuts splits, sunflower seeds, suet cakes and have even been known to sip a lil of that sweet nectar from hummingbird feeders. However, these birds tend to be the aggressors at feeders, pushing away outside species (all except for the Blue Jay!). Check your local fav ***Native Nurseries*** of Tallahassee for fresh seed and homemade suet cakes.
Depending on how many dead trees surround your area though, you may not have much luck attracting them to free feeder snacks. They typically stick to insects and plant material found from these dead trees, as well as nuts, acorns, and pine cones - even if they're hungry enough, lizards and minnows.
The oldest Red-Bellied Woodpecker to date was 12 years and 1 month old.