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My Life’s Birds: #75

March 26, 2008

July 28, 1993 – Christian Co, Mo – Still. To this day. One of my all-time favorite birds. Maybe it’s the appeal of woodpeckers I wrote about earlier. Maybe it’s the clean lines, the sharp colors situated in large blocks rather then messy lines and bars. Black. White. Red. No shades, no blends. A bird made to be depicted by Charley Harper.

The Red-headed Woodpeckers in southwest Missouri were hard to come by. I still always kind of associate them with flat land, with the sort of wide open, slightly wet field with lots of old snags. The sort of place that in southwest Missouri was drained and plowed for housing developments more suited for the more generalist Red-bellied Woodpecker, whose population has increased while the Red-head has declined.

When I went to college in the north part of the state, I was constantly amazed at the much higher density of the birds that had been kind of unusual in the Ozarks. In a CBC I did in Kirksville we ran up an incredible number of Red-heads at nearly every woodlot along the route. But the area was full of the flat open spaces filled with snags that the birds prefer. This high density may be explained by the Red-headed Woodpecker’s propensity towards hanging out in family groups, especially in the winter. This makes them easier to find where they’re present, and their shrill laughing calls don’t hurt either.

Now in North Carolina I see Red-Heads regularly in the oak-hickory forest at one of my favorite birding spots in the area, Mason Farm, but not as often elsewhere. The same rush to development that cut out their preferred habitat in Missouri is just as efficient here, and more pronounced in an area with nearly a million people. Will there always be places for the Red-heads? I hope so, they make even the slowest birding day exciting.

Photo from Wikipedia

One Comment
  1. Jochen permalink
    March 26, 2008 8:17 am

    Red-headed Woodpeckers are really difficult in Michigan. Actually, I only ever found one there, by lucky chance while doing a non-birding day with my wife at some metro park.
    The place to go around the Great Lakes (for me at least) is Rondeau PP in Ontario, where it is common and the only serious rival to the beautiful Prothonotary Warbler. They, the woodpeckers, actually visit the bird feeders at the information centre, incredible birds!!

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