In spite of the fact that the red-bellied woodpecker is commonly seen in Georgia backyards, it is a bird that has an identify problem.

While it is true that this common woodpecker is one of our most recognizable backyard birds, all too often it is called a red-headed woodpecker.  The truth of the matter is just because the bird’s crown and back of its neck are scarlet red doesn’t make it a red-headed woodpecker.  The true red-headed woodpecker’s head is entirely red.

I, like many of you, probably wonder why a bird with nothing more than a faint reddish wash on its belly is called the red-bellied woodpecker.  It seems to make more sense to name it after some more recognizable feature.

Several years ago, I showed a picture of a red-bellied woodpecker to an elementary class in Grovetown.  When I asked the students what they thought the bird was, one youngster piped up that he thought the bird should be called the red-necked woodpecker.  I thought that was a great answer.  I know one thing for certain, it makes more sense than calling it a red-bellied woodpecker.

Another feature that stands out on the red-bellied woodpecker is its back.  This woodpecker’s back displays a zebra-like pattern of white and black feathers.

The red-bellied woodpecker is a permanent resident in the Peach State.  It is commonly found both in woodlands and wooded yards in towns, cities and suburban areas.

The 9 1/4-inch bird can be attracted to yards by offering it suet and black-oil sunflower seeds.

Like all cavity nesting birds, it is suffering from a housing shortage.  The red-bellied woodpecker excavates it nest site in dead trees.  The problem is that such trees are becoming increasingly more difficult for the birds to find.  This is especially true in urban/suburban settings where dead trees are often cut down.  If you have a dead tree in your yard that does not pose a threat to humans or property, consider leaving it standing for red-bellied woodpeckers and other cavity nesters.


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