Red-headed Woodpecker and a Favorite Standing Dead Tree

Late on a cold, clear, softly sunny morning, a scattering of birds moved around our front yard. Northern Cardinals, White-throated Sparrows and two Dark-eyed Juncos scratched up leaves and foraged for seeds. There was a lot of rustling in dry leaves under the shrubs, and I caught glimpses of Eastern Towhees, a Carolina Wren, a Brown Thrasher. Two Chipping Sparrows sat on one feeder as they so often do, just sitting for long periods of time, eating. 

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet called jidit-jidit as it moved through the wax myrtles and into a Savannah holly. A few Yellow-rumped Warblers scattered chip calls as they flew from branch to branch in the bare-limbed oaks and pecan trees. A Downy Woodpecker whinnied and explored the bark of a tree near the feeders. Both Brown-headed Nuthatch and White-breasted Nuthatch called from somewhere nearby, but neither came close enough to see.

A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker flew to the middle of a pecan tree, and paused just briefly in a spot where the sun lit it beautifully, showing a gleaming crimson throat and crown and black-and-white striped face, before it flew away again.

As I walked to the bottom of our driveway I heard the now-familiar rattle of a Red-headed Woodpecker. I have continued to hear it almost any day when I’m outside, though in this busy holiday season, that hasn’t been as often as I’d like. It only took a minute to spot it on a dead standing tree just below the driveway. The snag is broken off at the top and has lost about half of its bark, but it is still fairly tall, and stands among several living oaks. The woodpecker stayed on this snag for several minutes, moving from spot to spot, and as I watched, I realized that it showed quite a bit of red on its head, though still mixed with brown. Its large white wing panels were marked with broken black bars. 

The brown heads of juvenile Red-headed Woodpeckers gradually turn red during their first winters, and this one seems to be turning red fairly early in the season. 

I left the woodpecker still working on the standing remnant of a dead tree and walked through the neighborhood, and when I returned, I found it in the same area, and watched it fly several times to other trees, but return each time to the dead tree, which must have offered some good places to find and store food. 

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