23 January, 2010

January Rains

We are having an unusual rain in January.  Ordinarily, our January precipitation is in frozen form.  Today the temperatures are above freezing (by a degree or 2) and rain has been falling gently for several hours.  Of course it is falling on top of 15 or so inches of snow.  :-(  And the temps will soon dip back below freezing for a week or maybe even a month.   :-(   We will be left with 15 inches snow covered with an icy glaze and icy roads.  The icy roads will be dealt with by the city and county (they do a great job of keeping the roads and streets free of ice and snow).

We have had quite a bit of bird activity at the bird feeders today, although they are not feeding as franticly as they were when the temps were super cold a few weeks ago.  The red-bellied woodpeckers are some of my favorites.  We have at least a pair that live in the woods behind the house. 

The male and female look very similar, but the female has red only at the nape of her neck and a slightly paler red spot above her beak.  The male has red all the way to his beak.  They have beautiful black and white wings.

Before the snow fell, the male spent time on the patio using the spaces between the stones to hold the seeds as he tapped them open.

Now, you are probably asking yourself why this is called a "red-bellied" woodpecker when the red is on its head?  Good question.  The answer comes in 2 parts.  Part one is that there is another woodpecker with a better claim to the name red-headed.  The real red-headed woodpecker's entire head (in males and females) is a bright, glaring red.  The second part is, that if you look closely and the bird is cooperative, you can see a bit of red on its lower belly.
Take a close look at this male's belly.  You can just barely make out a little red just in front of its tail.  
Here is a slightly better view of the red on the lower belly of the female.

So there you have it; they were named red-bellied for a characteristic that is not visible more often than it is.  Never-the-less, they are handsome, easily recognized birds that add a bright spot to any birder's garden.

We have another woodpecker, the pileated, that we often hear up in the woods, but seldom see except as a large shape flying from tree to tree.  They are crow-sized with a wingspan of up to almost 2.5 ft.  One recent day, a male came to check out the feeders and spent a little time on a tree beside the house.  I actually had the good fortune to have my camera at hand to get the shots below of my favorite local woodpecker. 
Isn't he grand? You can tell it is a male because of the red whiskers at the base of its beak.

These woodpeckers were certainly the brightest spots in the gray January day.  I hope you found bright spots in your day too.


  1. Some lovely photo's of your woodpeckers,we've only had a couple of visits from our own Great Spotted Woodpecker, It's probably because of the lack of trees in our area.

  2. Hi Wilma,
    I guess everybody is fighting nowadays against the weather. Well done on the woodpecker pictures! The pileated is wonderful!

  3. Hi Wilma,
    Great shots of the woodpeckers. from what I know the Pileated is the second largest woodpecker in your region.

  4. These are great Wilma, amazing colouring.

  5. Super pics of these colourful guys Wilma.

  6. We've had rains too and I'm tired of it. If I wanted a miserable, rainy winter, I would move to NJ - RBWO has visited my feeders recently, but PIWO, when seen, is usually a fast flyby - nice photos - I'm jealous.

  7. Great Great shots Wilma - I love that Pileated Woodpecker - I remember seeing them in Texas - it really is a WOW!! bird.

  8. Beautiful shots of these woodpeckers Wilma. They really are stunners. They'd brighten the dullest of days with their red feathers.

  9. David -- it is pretty rare to see a pileated woodpecker away from the woods and especially checking out a birdfeeder next to a house.

    Nan -- thanks!

    Chris -- when we have sunshine, the cold is very bitter, nd when the temps are warmer, it is cloudy; that is the way of winter in these parts. Thanks!

    Madi - I think the only woodpecker that is larger is the ivory billed woodpecker. Unfortunately, except for a possible sighting in Arkansas a couple of years ago, the ivory billed hasn't been documented for about 50 years now. It is probably extinct.

    Roy -- thanks for visiting and the nice compliment.

    FAB -- thanks!

    Chris -- yes, I was lucky to see the pileated long enough to photograph it; a rare happenning. We are back to the frozen stuff now. :-(

    TonyC -- thanks! You have lots of WOW birds (and photographs)in Oz.

    Keith -- thanks, glad you stopped by to see them.


  10. What beautiful photos Wilma! How wonderful to have Woodpeckers visiting your garden, they are right up the top of my 'wanted' list :)

  11. Very funny that woodpecker just sit there on its belly feeding.
    Beautiful pictures.

  12. Great woodpecker collection,outstanding Photography.
    Love the rich colouring.

  13. hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....

  14. Very beautiful bird. Great blog! Congratulations from Portugal. Jorge Sousa www.ibernatur.blogspot

  15. beautifull woodpecker
    especially the red hair, very amazing

  16. The woodpeckers are real beauties, Wilma. Excellent pictures.


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