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This Week’s Creature Feature: Red-Bellied Woodpecker

This excavator can be a house-wrecker

      The red-bellied woodpecker is frequently called a red-headed woodpecker. But the slight reddish tinge to its belly gives it the proper name.
      Common throughout the eastern U.S., these big birds are aggressive and will face down starlings at a feeder. Like most woodpeckers, they hunt insects burrowing into trees, but they will also eat fruit and berries. In the winter, they commonly eat poison ivy berries. Unlike a northern flicker, they do most of their food gathering above ground.
     The red-belly makes several nesting cavities each year, testing to see which works best.
      Their test nests help other animals find shelter. Wrens and screech owls, gray squirrels, flying squirrels, ducks and other small animals use the nesting cavities. In the nest the woodpeckers settle on, they make attentive parents to as many as three broods a year, each of two to six babies.
      The woodpeckers may also try to make a nest cavity in the eaves or siding of a house. Once a woodpecker decides on your home, it is difficult to discourage it. Using an owl replica near the side of the house, a high-pitched noise emitter and wire mesh over the area are possible preventive methods. 
      A smaller woodpecker, the downy, frequently uses hollow structures as sounding boards. On the sides of houses, they try to be as loud as possible. They are not as damaging as the bigger red-bellied but can be annoying at 5am.