Red- headed Woodpecker on Hunter Island

In mid April, we found a Red-headed Woodpecker on Hunter Island in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. We watched as the bird constantly hammered inches away from a Red-bellied Woodpecker cavity. The Red- bellied female would poke her head out of the cavity and use her bill to sometimes chase the Red- headed. Eventually the male Red-bellied would return and attack the Red-headed. who would immediately fly away. Minutes later the Red-headed would return and the whole cycle would begin again. We watched this on many occasions. Nearby were other Red-bellied nests in tree cavities and Flickers nesting as well. For whatever reason, the Red-headed was relentless and continued to hammer away inches away from the one desired cavity. A local photographer, Bruno Attisani, observed and photographed the Red-headed finally getting into the cavity and removing three eggs. Bruno reports that the Red- headed seemed to be eating the eggs. We later I observed the absence of the Red-bellied in the desired cavity. Bruno told me he saw the Red-headed inside excavating it.  I later observed that as well. I also noticed the absence of the Flickers and other Red-bellied woodpeckers that had once occupied/nested in other tree cavities nearby. I also observed the Red-headed going from one tree cavity to another and looking inside. I believe he has driven out all the other nesting woodpeckers from the area and in addition has the exact tree cavity he wants. It seemed that after a month of harassment his persistence has paid off.

He remained in the nest cavity for about a week, but on 5/23 I was notified that the Red-bellied reclaimed their nest cavity and evicted the Red-headed!

On May 31 I walked the trail but was no longer able to find him. I believe he left for lack of a female. This was great entertainment for us, but not for the Red-bellied Woodpeckers. It will be interesting to see if he returns again next spring.

Above and right: The Red-headed Woodpecker drumming feverishly near the Red-bellied’s nest.

Center: The Red-headed removing the eggs from the Red-bellied nest.

Photo by Bruno Attisani

Right: The Red-headed near the cavity/nest after being chased.

Below: If only there was a female!

Home           Contact         About