If you think this is a Red-headed Woodpecker you are wrong…but you are not alone. Thinking this is a Red-headed Woodpecker is one of the most common birding ID mistakes. While I couldn’t find an absolute statistic my bet would be that 90% of the people who see this bird think “Red-headed Woodpecker.” Actually he is a Red-bellied Woodpecker although none of my field guides indicate an actual red-belly. Such are the problems of birding ID’s.
This is an actual Red-headed Woodpecker and they are not nearly as common as their colorful cousins. This particular Red-head was a resident at the Carlton Preserve in Venice, Florida and for several years you could count on seeing him at the entrance to the preserve in a grove of decaying trees. I told an honest-to-God ornithologist (bird expert) about the Red-headed Woodpecker at Carlton Preserve and he poo-pooed the possibility, insisting I was actually seeing a Red-bellied Woodpecker. So I suggested we go to Carlton Preserve together and he agreed. We had walked just a few feet into the entrance when this handsome Red-headed Woodpecker flew to the same tree in this photo. My ornithologist friend was so surprised that he dropped his camera. He spent the rest of the day expressing awe that it really was a Red-headed Woodpecker and that I was right! I can’t recall if I ever saw the ornithologist again but the Red-headed Woodpecker was great entertainment for several more years. They are still at Carlton Preserve but the ones that foraged near the entrance seem to have moved on. My guess is they grew weary of too many ornithologists making fools of themselves. ❧