Thursday, May 25, 2006

Red-headed Woodpecker is Special in West Virginia

This Red-headed Woodpecker photographed at a feeder near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, by Scott Wilkinson is special indeed, as the species is not commonly encountered anywhere in West Virginia. It is extremely rare in the Appalachian Mountains (never seen on more than 1.5 percent of trips afield) and nearly as rare in the Piedmont to the east (where never seen on more than 5 percent of trips afield), and is spottily-distributed in the Mid-Atlantic. Be warned that these graphs from eBird may take a considerable time to download!!

Although rarely mentioned in West Virginia literature, the following references to Red-headed Woodpeckers seem particularly notable:

The bill of a bird found dead (of starvation) in Upshur County on 11 January 1934 had penetrated an acorn so deeply (ca 3/8 in) "that extrication had proved impossible." (1)

On 11 May 1938, a pair of Downy Woodpeckers vigorously attacked a Red-headed Woodpecker that showed interest in a nest cavity newly excavated by the Downies near Charleston, Kanawha County. (2)

Among the examples given of intense fighting witnessed among birds in West Virginia was intraspecific fighting between Red-headed Woodpeckers. (3)

A Jackson County hunter apprehended with a Red-headed Woodpecker in his possession in the early 1950s claimed he had mistaken it for a "woodcock." (4)

On an unspecified date in fall 1963 near Elkins, Randolph County, a male Red-headed Woodpecker "repeatedly flew into the air in a spiral manner much like a spinning top only to return almost immediately to the ground in the same manner." Upon capture, the bird’s bill was found to be imbedded in its body near the left wing. After freeing the bill, the released bird "flew away in a normal manner." (5)

A Red-headed Woodpecker with a territory 50 yards from a suet feeder in a Kanawha County backyard defended the feeder against individuals of 5 other species of woodpeckers (Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker), May-June 1969. (6)
Sources:
(1) Brooks, M. 1934. An unusual Red-headed Woodpecker accident. Auk 51:379.

(2) Upton, C. B. 1938. Down and Red-headed woodpeckers fighting. Redstart 5:60-61.

(3) Legg, W. C. 1946. Birds in combat. Redstart 13:42-43.

(4) Harris, R. S. 1952. Paragraph from field notes. West Virginia Conservation 15(10):27-28.

(5) Vanscoy, E. 1964. The spiral woodpecker. Redstart 31:53.

(6) Katholi, C. 1969. Territorial defense. Redstart 36:90.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Cindy said...

aren't they just gorgeous? They stop here each spring, but since they prefer to nest/breed in coniferous habitat they usually move on. They're pretty fearless too- I've observed them pushing our Pileateds off the feeders :)

May 26, 2006 4:27 PM  
Blogger John L. Trapp said...

They're definitely in my top-ten list of most beautiful birds. I used to see them quite often where I grew up in the midwest.

May 27, 2006 8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HELP !!!!!!!!!
the red headed woodpeckers life in is need of help. my apt. complex is tearing down its home, there are 2 family's of these birds. and no one wants to help me out with this. I live in VA Richmond, VA to be pursise. I contacted PETA- not yet heard anything fomr them. WE NEED TO SAVE THESE BIRDS!!!!!!!

August 05, 2008 9:47 AM  

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