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. Four local observers told me they saw a second Red-headed but I have yet to see it and there are no photos of two of them. It would be great if it nested here.

Today I observed the absence of the Red-bellied in the desired cavity and Bruno told me he saw the Red-headed inside excavating it. I stayed a while this morning and noticed the absence of the Flickers and other Red-bellied woodpeckers that 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 seems that after a month of harassment his persistence has paid off. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few weeks and if there is indeed a female nearby. He also frequents an area further back in the woods and I wonder if there is already a nest and he just doesn’t want any competition nearby. Further UPDATE 5/23/17- The Red-bellied have reclaimed their cavity!!

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: Could he be bringing this worm to a nest somewhere else?

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