Monday, June 27, 2022

Red-Bellied Woodpeckers

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Nature, Wildlife, Evolutionary Biology

Ed Hessler

Sometimes species are referred to as generalists while others as specialists--a shorthand description of their abilities to survive under different environmental conditions and feeding behavior. However, the overall truth of the matter is that there is a continuum from one to the other although some species fit in one or the other very clearly. This Wiki entry has details on generalist and specialist species.

Jim Williams (The Star Tribune, June 8, 2022) focused on one, red-bellied woodpeckers, birds that have "been pushing northward for the past 70 years." They are generalists as you shall see.

As is well known, two locally common woodpeckers are quite hard to identify, the downy and the hairy woodpecker. And they don't give you many easy or clear glimpses. Red-bellied woodpeckers are easy, thanks to "an arresting black and white-barred back" which leads some to use a more descriptive name: zebra-backed woodpecker. Their bellies appear lightly rouged. Red-bellied woodpeckers are vocal and the descriptions of all three from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes their respective appearance and calls. Williams notes that red bellies "churr."

After describing some of their behavior, coloration, spread, his backyard experiences, nesting habits, Williams writes "So, hats off to a misnamed but highly successful tree-clinging bird, who's not fussy about what it eats and where it lives, and is managing to capitalize on our changing natural world." I think you will agree that they are handsome, striking birds. They appear inquistive, at least in my view.

Woodpeckers. One more good reason to do everything we can to slow the change from climate and insults to habitats. 

Another column from one of the best around. Thank you.

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