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What is a Red Belllied Woodpecker?

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  • Written By: Steve R.
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2018
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The red bellied woodpecker is a medium-size bird commonly found in southern Canada and in the United States in the Great Lakes area, as well as the Northeast. Male birds feature red heads and napes, with black and white backs and tails. Females appear similar to males, but do not have red necks. Adults generally weigh about 3 ounces (about 75 g), are 10 inches (about 25 cm) long, and possess a wing span of 15 to 18 inches (about 38 to 46 cm). The average life span of the bird is 12 years.

The birds are non-migratory, making their home in the same territory throughout the year. The birds are adaptable and can live in a variety of habitats, especially woodland and pined forests. At times, the woodpeckers will make appearances in parks, as well as in residential areas at backyard feeders. The red bellied woodpecker can make its home in live or dead tree trees at elevations as high as 2,952 feet(about 900 m) in the Appalachian Mountains.

Woodpeckers communicate by pecking or drumming on trees, limbs, utility poles, and even bricks or other hard surfaces with their beaks. A woodpecker can often drum 19 beats per second. The drumming is used to declare ownership of a territory or to attract a mate.

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Breeding season for the red bellied woodpecker begins in March or April. Males and females jointly select a nesting site as high as 70 feet (about 21 m) from the ground. On average, the female lays four eggs. Both the male and female take turns incubating the eggs, which take less than two weeks to hatch. In about a year, the woodpecker is sexually mature.

The red bellied woodpecker eats both plants and animals as a primary source for food. Its diet consists of fruits, nuts, tree sap, and berries, which it will often store away for winter months. The birds also consume grasshoppers, beetles, flies, caterpillars, and grasshoppers. The woodpecker can even eat tiny vertebrates, such as tree frogs, fish, and bird eggs.

When the bird captures its prey, it often swallows it whole. In instances when its prey is larger, the woodpecker smashes it against a tree and then pecks at it. The red bellied woodpecker also uses its unique tongue for catching food. The creature's long tongue is sticky, allowing it to snag prey from cracks and deep fissures.

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