red-headed woodpecker – the flag bird

I grew up seeing red-headed woodpeckers as a matter of course. Its loud “queeerp” call always beckoned a search for it. I even remember its nickname as the flag bird – red, white and deep navy blue. Over the last fifty years they have declined on an average of 2% per year – a cumulative decline of 70%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Their decline is due mostly in the past half-century to habitat loss and changes to its food supply. The following is from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology –

“Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 1.2 million, with 99% spending part of the year in the U.S., and 1% in Canada. The species rates a 13 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Red-headed Woodpecker is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action. The species is also listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.”

As well, here are some “cool facts” from the Cornell Lab –

  • The striking Red-headed Woodpecker has earned a place in human culture. Cherokee Indians used the species as a war symbol, and it makes an appearance in Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha, telling how a grateful Hiawatha gave the bird its red head in thanks for its service.
  • Pleistocene-age fossils of Red-headed Woodpeckers—up to 2 million years old—have been unearthed in Florida, Virginia, and Illinois.
  • The Red-headed Woodpecker was the “spark bird” (the bird that starts a person’s interest in birds) of legendary ornithologist Alexander Wilson in the 1700s.

Red-headed woodpecker 1 WEB

Red-headed woodpecker 2 WEB

Red-headed woodpecker in flight 1 WEB

Red-headed woodpecker in flight 2 WEB

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