Red-bellied Woodpecker

Melanerpes carolinusI’m seeing, and hearing, more Red-bellied Woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus) this winter than Downy Woodpeckers. In the Spartan woods of winter, their loud calls can be the only sound other than the wind. Melanerpes carolinusI learned recently that this bird, with its ambiguous name (the Red-headed Woodpecker is a whole other species, and the red-belly here is just sort of an orange stain), is a relative newcomer to our region. A century ago, they would have been rare accidentals. (Some have argued that the first colonialists found them here, but that deforestation extirpated them locally.) In my lifetime (not that I was here, or paying attention), they started appearing more regularly. Bull (1964) has no breeding records in the NYC region. Having moved northwards in a relatively short period, they definitely nest in NYC now.
Melanerpes carolinusThis female was really twisting to get at some arthropod treasures in the bark. Note those toes, in the zygodactyl foot pattern: two forward, two back. With her stiff tail feathers anchored back against the trunk, her X-pattern toes aid her climbing. As a comparison, most songbirds have three toes forward, one back.

Philip Roth as given a succinct description of the Orange One: “I found much that was alarming about being a citizen during the tenures of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. But, whatever I may have seen as their limitations of character or intellect, neither was anything like as humanly impoverished as Trump is: ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English.”

A nice nod to Newspeak there: the whittling down of language, its debasement in hideous euphemisms (“alternative facts”), in the gobbledegook word-salad that is his extemporaneous blather, is something we must all struggle against. This is not normal and will not become normal as long as we insist that it isn’t.

1 Response to “Red-bellied Woodpecker”


  1. 1 gurlitt January 26, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    We have lots of red bellies here, at the suet. They are my favorites.

    I agree with Paul Krugman’s latest–Trump is insane.


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