Brooklyn Boro

Brooklyn Bird Watch: June 8

June 8, 2021 By Joseph Palmer

Meet the Red Bellied Woodpecker. After seeing Heather Wolf’s excellent photo of a Downy Woodpecker that she spotted in Brooklyn Bridge Park, I sent the Eagle a photo I had taken of the same kind of woodpecker digging out a nest in a large tree limb here in Central Florida. Then a Brooklyn Heights resident sent a picture of a Downy Woodpecker holding on to the side of a tree near the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights.

I’ve had some other experiences with woodpeckers here in Central Florida where there is, for example, an abundance of Red Bellied Woodpeckers. In spite of its name it would seem, Bird experts confess that this beautiful bird actually has very little red on its belly. Its just not as visible as its bright red crown.

As highlighted in the Eagle’s BROOKLYN BIRD WATCH series, woodpeckers have adapted to the violent pecking against everything from hard wood to metal, which would obviously cause brain damage to a bird not so adapted.

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Something interesting I found out about the Red Bellied Woodpecker is one of the ways it protects its brain from the shock of the violent pecking is to withdraw its long tongue back into a canal that essentially wraps the tongue around it brain for additional insulation and padding. Professional birders might have known this although this was a new, interesting to me.

When you hear the loud machine gun-like repetition of a Red Bellied Woodpecker hammering on a metallic leaf gutter for example, it’s not because they think its wood, its because they are trying to communicate with another bird somewhere.

And when you hear the strange guttural call of the Red Bellied Woodpecker, you wonder, who would respond to that weird sound? And then, after a few moments, you hear like a delayed echo in the distance, she has returned his call. My money says he’ll find her.


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