January 11, 2022
Hi, nature fans! It's time for another edition of #BenInNature presented by our friends at Carter Bank & Trust!
The red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) falls into the surprisingly broad category of "birds that are named after their least notable feature." There is a slight reddish tinge to the feathers on the belly of this species, but it's difficult to see in the field. There is a closely related species you can spot in Virginia known as the red-headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus). It looks pretty different, but at least it does have a prominent red head!
Red-bellied woodpeckers can be found year-round throughout the eastern half of the U.S., and they're one of the more common woodpeckers you're likely to spot at your birdfeeders. Unlike many woodpeckers, this species is less likely to drill holes in trees in search of insects beneath the bark. Instead, it uses its bill as a sort of chisel to probe cracks in the trunks of trees.
These birds require dead trees in order to build their nests, so if you'd like to attract them to your property, don't worry about cutting down those dead trees out in the woods. Red-bellied woodpeckers offer an excellent benefit as well: they're major predators of the emerald ash borer beetle (Agrilus planipennis), making them an excellent ally in the fight against this invasive species!
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. This series of posts is made possible thanks to the support of VMNH Corporate Partner Carter Bank & Trust (www.cbtcares.com).
NATURE PHOTO IDENTIFICATIONS
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!