Monday, May 17, 2010

MA - Red-headed Woodpecker - 05/15

Red-headed Woodpecker - inside cavity, Deerfield, Franklin Co., MA. May15th, 2010.

Saturday (05/15/10) would see us take a family visit up to the Lewis Track and Field training facility in by Eagle Brook School in Deerfield. Two evenings before that I'd heard a Red-headed Woodpecker calling from a small tract of woodland near the track and decided to go back in an attempt to get a sighting, and perhaps even an image.

On arrival we didn't hear any woodpeckers calling or drumming but patient waiting along a nearby powerline cut eventually produced one, then two Red-bellied Woodpeckers being hotly pursued by a Red-headed Woodpecker! A crazy 'back and forth' then ensued for some minutes to the point where sightings of Red-headed Woodpecker were so frequent that I felt sure two birds must be involved, but at no point did I have two Red-headed Woodpeckers in view at the same time.

This close association between the Red-bellied and Red-headed Woodpeckers was intriguing and by following them I was eventually led to a cavity high in a Sugar Maple. I saw a Red-headed Woodpecker enter the cavity, seemingly suggesting breeding - "brilliant", or so I thought! A minute or so later the Red-headed left the cavity, but the hole was still occupied, this time by a Red-bellied Woodpecker! Over the next ten minutes I watched amazed as both Red-headed and Red-bellied Woodpeckers entered and left the same cavity.

It was the first time I'd seen two different species of woodpecker attempting to occupy the same cavity but, after a little background reading, it would appear that the Red-headed may have been the aggressor. Apparently Red-headed can be aggressive towards Red-bellied (especially) and other species of woodpecker sometimes usurping them from nestholes and will also eat the eggs and nestlings of other bird species! Certainly, the size and positioning of the cavity would, in my experience, be more typical of Red-bellied Woodpecker so my assumption was (though I'm far from sure) that the Red-headed was indeed attempt to usurp this pair of Red-bellied from their cavity - not quite what I was expecting to find on a sunny Saturday morning in Western Massachusetts!


Red-headed Woodpecker - at cavity, Deerfield, Franklin Co., MA. May15th, 2010.



Red-bellied Woodpecker - at the same cavity as above, Deerfield, Franklin Co., MA. May15th, 2010.


Red-bellied and Red-headed Woodpeckers - at same cavity, Deerfield, Franklin Co., MA. May15th, 2010. In this image, the Red-headed is just leaving the cavity, possibly having been pushed out by the Red-bellied (just in shot inside the cavity).


Red-bellied and Red-headed Woodpeckers - at same cavity, Deerfield, Franklin Co., MA. May15th, 2010. Another image, the Red-headed is just leaving the cavity once again, possibly having been repelled by the Red-bellied visible inside the cavity.



Red-headed Woodpecker - Deerfield, Franklin Co., MA. May15th, 2010. Bird in more relaxed mode, these shots taken from the powerline cut.

3 comments:

killam all said...

This was such a fascinating blog!!!

Larry said...

Some great photos and very interesting species interaction.

Kim said...

Love your pictures, especially the one w/ the Red-headed in flight w/ the Red-bellied in the hole. It must have been fascinating to watch.