Ever since I put up a new bird feeder (with a mix guaranteed to attract all sorts of seed-eating birds), I have had an unusual visitor several times a day, a female Red-bellied Woodpecker. How do I know it’s a female? The orangey-red color extends from the neck over the crown to the top of the bill in the male.
It looks like it should have been named Red-headed, but there is another woodpecker whose scarlet feathers cover its entire head and neck more deserving of that title. Instead, the name for this bird comes from the faint tinge of red on its lower abdomen, which you can just barely see in the photo below.
I have never seen more than just the back of the bird, except this one time, when it briefly posed above the feeder. She seems to prefer sunflower seeds, and although there are a lot of them in the seed mix, it takes a couple of minutes for her to find just the right seed, and sometimes she sticks her whole head into the feeding slot between the bars of the supposed squirrel-protection cage, twisting her head back and forth, to coax the recalcitrant seed out.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers are an eastern species, year-round residents throughout their range from southern Canada to Florida. They are highly insectivorous in the summer, catching insects on the fly, as well as grabbing them off the bark of the deciduous forest trees where they live. But like good oppportunists, they eat what is available, and will take fruit, nuts, and apparently seeds from a feeder when insects are in short supply.
I hear their throaty, chirpy, b-r-r-r-t trill often in the winter, but have never seen them at my feeders. This species has extended its range northward and westward in the past 100 years, and populations are on the rise. I hope to see more of the female and her boyfriend this winter.