Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Ben here with my favorite find from last week's VMNH Christmas bird count! This is one of three red-headed woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) that we spotted at J. Frank Wilson Memorial Park right behind the museum.

Red-headed woodpeckers are not exactly endangered (their status is currently listed as "least concern" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of endangered species), but they're not as common as they once were. Of the seven species of woodpeckers that can be found in the Martinsville/Henry County area, these are the woodpeckers that you're probably least likely to spot.

Historically, the red-headed woodpecker was once one of the more common species and could be found throughout southern Canada and the eastern and central U.S. However, populations declined precipitously in the 20th century, and the bird is considered "threatened" in Canada and several U.S. states.

The reasons for the decline are about what you would expect, mainly loss of habitats and nesting sites (standing dead trees) within remaining habitats due to human activity. It's believed that they have also lost nesting sites to invasive European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), which were intentionally introduced to the U.S. by humans. Fortunately, better management has caused their numbers to more or less stabilize throughout most of their range, and hopefully those numbers will eventually begin climbing again.

In addition to eating insects living in dead wood, red-headed woodpeckers will also catch insects in flight, and as much as two-thirds of their diet is made up of seeds, nuts, and berries. While these woodpeckers are fairly uncommon, they will come to suet feeders and they also like sunflower seeds, so keep your eyes on your backyard and your fingers crossed! #BenInNature

ABOUT #BenInNature
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends.

If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!

map of Virginia and surrounding areas

Please Visit Us Soon


Tuesday - Saturday: 10am - 4pm
Sunday - Monday: Closed


$10 for ages 18-59
$5 for ages 3-17, seniors 60+, and college students
FREE for children under 3, museum members, and members of ASTC participating institutions

My 4 year old son loves going to the museum. The exhibits are educational, interactive and kid-friendly.

Beth Deathrage

Hear More  arrow