Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Now Identified Woodpecker

As I was reviewing my photos from the weekend, I realized I had forgotten to mention this woodpecker I also saw on my quiet Monday morning at the cottage.

I was going to call it a pileated woodpecker but then I realized that would not have been at all correct. As you can see here, the pileated version is much larger and has a much more pronounced crown of red.

I then had to figure out exactly which type of woodpecker I had been seen.  I returned to my favourite research tool, Google, and immediately discovered this blog entry written by Mark Read on his blog entitled Confessions of a Global Birder (you've got to click on that link if only to see the photo he has at the top of his blog page, it is an astoundingly beautiful picture of a misty lake with sun tinted mountains in the background taken somewhere in the world where there are palm trees, judging by the frond in the foreground.)  Said blog entry refers to both the hairy woodpecker and the downy woodpecker, two birds that are very similar in appearance except for one quick reference point, the length of their beak.  A quick glance back at my photos and yes, I confirmed that what I saw was in fact a hairy woodpecker.

A little more Googling and I found this page from the All About Birds website posted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (which amazingly, appears to have been written by the same Mark Read - how spooky is that? Is there only one birder on the Internet??!) which has a picture of the heads of both woodpeckers and talks about how to measure the length of their beaks against the width of their head for quick identification.  If there is one thing I've learned about identifying birds in my limited experiences doing same, you've got to be quick because you just have to blink and that bird could be gone and if you didn't get a photo and you're like me, you have no idea what you just saw!

Luckily, with respect to this particular woodpecker, the mystery of its identity was easily solved.

Or so I thought.  When I looked at my photos again, I realized the red on the crown of this bird was different than the patterns of each of the hairy and downy woodpecker, who have their red markings on the back of their head.  Even in my not-so-great photos, you can clearly see the red appears on the front of the bird's head, not the back.

Back to Google images I went and bing, bang, boom, it turns out I was actually photographing a yellow-bellied sapsucker (which is also a member of woodpecker family).  A female, to be exact, as the males have a very noticeable red throat.  However, the bird I saw didn't have the long, white stripe along its wing which is one of the ways of distinguishing it from the H and D woodpeckers, nor did it have any suggestion of yellow on its belly.

Still, I'm pretty sure that must be what it was.  What do you think?

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