Birdhouses 101 - Red Bellied Woodpecker



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Red Bellied Woodpecker

About The Red Bellied Woodpecker

Red Bellied WoodpeckerOne of the widespread and year round resident woodpecker in the eastern half of the US and southern parts of Canada and the Great Lakes is the Red bellied woodpecker. It is commonly found in forests, parks, and backyards. As its name implies, it is characterized by a red patch edged with a yellow wash belly, both genders alike. It is easy to spot by its red crown and back. It also has gray under parts, zebra-striped back and a white rump. Its wings are patterned with black and white. The white-patched base of primary flight feathers is recognizable when in flight. It grows to about 9-10.5 long with a wingspan of 123-139 mm and weighs 72.5 grams.

The Red Bellied Woodpecker Nesting Preferences

Red bellied woodpeckers commonly nest in a cavity excavated by the male in living, but more usually in dying trees. The male takes 7-10 days to complete excavation. Oftentimes, more than one cavity exists in a tree. But in some cases, more than a pair of birds lives in one suitable tree. They were also observed to nest in poles and sometimes in properly constructed birdhouses. Its gourd-shaped nest accommodates 4 to 6 glossy white eggs. Both parents incubate their eggs for 12-14 days. They raise 1-2 broods each season.

The Red Bellied Woodpecker Mating Habits

Red Bellied WoodpeckerIn early spring, Red bellied woodpeckers are known for tapping their bill together forming a drumming sound which signals that the male is claiming its territory and hopes to court a mate for a season of nesting. This habit of tapping is done on gutters, utility poles, sidings or hollow limbs as long as it resonates well for its needs. Tapping is mutual and generally done at a nesting cavity. Mating is done as one bird will enter and the other stays outside, and each will take turns tapping to the other. These creatures are said to be monogamous throughout the breeding season. Some pairs last for over several seasons.

The Red Bellied Woodpecker Feeding Preferences

The Red bellied woodpecker forages on limbs and tree trunks of deciduous trees. They prefer eating beetles, grasshoppers, ants, acorns, beechnuts and fruits. During winter, their diet is mostly seeds and can often be found at birdfeeders. They are also able to store food in crevices of tree bark for later consumption.

Building a Birdhouse For The Red Bellied Woodpecker

A recommended birdhouse for the size of a Red bellied woodpecker should have dimensions of 7 x 9 x 18h with an entry hole of about 2 in diameter. The house should have a sturdy gable roof construction with a side cleanout. Since they are used to living on tree holes, it should be mounted and screwed firmly on a tree 10-20 feet above the ground.

Interesting Red Bellied Woodpecker Facts

Red-bellied wood peckers are attracted to noise that resonate. They tap noisily on aluminum roofs, metal guttering and even on cars to attract mates. Their annoying sound can cause dismay to a person who wishes to sleep peacefully at night. It belongs to the Picidae family and has a scientific name of Melanerpes carolinus.

Readers Comments


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Tallulah Orcel  5/17/2007)
As a bird enthusiast, I found the site to be very helpful. It was to the point and didnt blabber on about unimportant info. It has everything I needed to know


   2/3/2008)
It was very good but I want to know if they like to nest by there food and other birds.


Sarah  Brotman  2/16/2008)
This site is very helpful! It helped me ace my research project too!


Pauline  Bosch  4/30/2008)
I had to laugh at the comment regarding the bird tapping noisily on aluminum roofs. Its spring here in Ontario, and I have a wood pecker coming every morning at 6:00 and tapping noisily for 2 hours as I am trying to sleep! I hope it doesnt last all summer. Thank you for the information.


Carolee Jones  )
Our red-bellied woodpecker pair are taking turns excavating the nesting hole. The female seems to be doing as much work as the male. As one leaves the other comes in. In between it rests and eats.


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