05.27.18: Looking around


Female Red-bellied Woodpecker looking around, Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.


Technical information

Dec. 21, 2014,
10:13 a.m.

40°7'8.525" N 82°57'24.702" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 


1/500th second


I run into a lot of helpful people when I’m on one of my photo hikes through local parks. They see me carrying a camera with a long lens, assume I’m photographing wildlife and say “I saw a deer back there on the left” or “There were some turkeys beside the trail.”

The really observant ones, and the most helpful, might point out a nest they saw or an owl or hawk blending with its surroundings while resting, things I likely would have missed without their assistance.

But every once in a while someone will tell me they saw some Red-headed Woodpeckers near the trail. I know what they really saw were Red-bellied Woodpeckers, but I thank them and say I’ll look for them.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are common in Central Ohio and in forests across the eastern U.S. Estimates are that there are more than 10 million Red-bellied Woodpeckers in the U.S. alone. Red-headed Woodpeckers are far less common, with a global population of just over 1 million.

I’ve had local birdwatchers tell me there are no Red-headed Woodpeckers in Central Ohio, but I have serious doubts about that statement. A couple of years ago I got a photo of an immature Red-headed Woodpecker in a local park, so I assume that means there had been at least one male and one female Red-headed Woodpecker in the area.

But it makes sense that people who don’t spend much time watching birds would assume this is a photo of a Red-headed Woodpecker. It does have red on its head. But it’s a female Red-bellied Woodpecker, named for the patch of red feathers at the base of its belly — not visible in this photo but evident when the bird is viewed from other angles.

I know this is a female because the red just covers its nape. Its crown is grayish-white. Male Red-bellied Woodpeckers have a red crown and nape.

By comparison, the entire head on a Red-headed Woodpecker is red. It really stands out.

I found this Red-bellied Woodpecker during a photo hike in December 2014. The bird was working the bark on a tree, looking for insects, when it suddenly turned to look for another tree. I liked how the forest background dropped to a defocused tan/brown color, isolating the bird against an uncluttered background.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.