Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Red Headed Woodies

The Red headed Woodpecker—so aptly named.  Far too often I hear people tell me they’ve seen a Red Head.  When I ask them to describe the bird, it turns out to be a Red Bellied.  Once you’ve seen a true Red Head, you won’t mistakenly identify a Red Bellied.  The Red Head pictured above was found at the Smith Oaks Woods on the Upper Texas Coast.  Note, it’s in a mulberry tree.  Red Heads are uncommon in its range having suffered from habitat loss as small family farms disappear.  The other cause for its decline is European Starlings which compete for the same cavities in which to nest.

A fascinating group—Woodpeckers—for any number of reasons;  I am astounded, and I’m certain I’m not alone, that any creature can bang its beak and head against wood with such force and not sustain a concussion.  However, that is but one reason for my fascination.

Woodpeckers are zygodactylous, having four toes with two facing forward and two facing to the rear.  The arrangement coupled with stiff inner tail feathers enables these birds to easily scale tree trunks. 

This is a very diverse group.  There are 219 species of woodpeckers worldwide.  Twenty five species are found in North America.  Their feeding habits are diverse, as well.  One cannot assume that all woodpeckers chisel away at wood to get to beetles. Yes, there was a reason I earlier pointed out the Red Head was in a mulberry tree.  It will feed on fruit and berries as well as insects.

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