Winter is woodpecker time

To me, winter is woodpecker time.

Technically, this is not true, of course. Woodpeckers are mostly year-round residents; they do not just show up in the winter. But around where I live, in the winter there is a dearth of bird life in the woods. Actually this is a somewhat complicated topic — in the winter some birds, such as most wood warblers, have migrated south; but there are also some bird from even further north that have migrated here, such as kinglets and juncos; then there are the resident birds, such as chickadees, titmice, bluebirds, etc., so there are still many birds around. However, it seems to me that in this area, there tend to be more waterfowl in the winter than birds of the woods. Furthermore, even those that remain, generally they are much quieter in the winter. Besides, in the winter the deciduous trees have shed their leaves, those birds that remain, such as the woodpeckers, now really stand out.

So much for the quasi-scientific analysis. Go to the woods in the winter and you will understand what I am talking about. The hard knocks of woodpeckers on tree trunks resonate in the woods, and sometimes you will hear the strident, almost maniac calling of the Pileated Woodpecker. The drumming of the Pileated Woodpecker can be especially loud and starling. And if you are luck, you may catch a glimpse of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

OK, I am just kidding about the last one. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker, sadly, is most certainly extinct.

The following are a few shots I took of the Downy Woodpecker, the smallest and probably most common woodpecker in the eastern woods (the last one is a female, note the absence of the red patch on its crown).

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

A couple of shot of the Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

On that note, I have a personal gripe about the naming of the Red-bellied Woodpecker. As you can see in the second picture, its belly is only faintly (very faintly) red, but its head — the cap, the crown — is mostly red. But you cannot call it Red-headed Woodpecker, as that name is already taken (and appropriately so, as that woodpecker has a completely and strikingly red head). Then why not call it Red-capped Woodpecker, or Red-crowned Woodpecker? Red-bellied seems a very poor name.

Finally, a shot of a Pileated Woodpecker peering out of a tree hole:

Pileated Woodpecker

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