Necedah: Refuge for the Red-headed Woodpecker

One bird that Tommy, Evan, and I kept watch for as we traveled through Necedah National Wildlife Refuge was the Red-headed Woodpecker.  Tommy got his lifer a couple days prior on his Grand Forks trip.  This was a bird I hadn’t seen since 2014.  And whether you have freshly lifered on this bird or seen dozens, it is one that you really can’t get tired of seeing.  I was pretty excited about the possibility of finally ending my streak of days passed since seeing a Red-headed Woodpecker.

Once we got closer to the Visitors Center on the south end of the refuge, we started driving through some Oak Savannah habitat–good-looking stuff for a Red-headed Woodpecker.  It didn’t take long to spot one. Or two. Or three. Or a dozen.  They were everywhere.  It was insane and wonderful all at once.

Red-headed Woodpecker

IMG_8752What’s this bird looking at? Probably a mate or a competitor for a mate. There were two that were involved in a seemingly endless chase, never once pausing for a good picture.  At one point we saw them lock feet and fall to the ground like Eagles.  It was fantastic.

Red-headed WoodpeckerMy own personal RHWO drought along with the near-threatened status of this bird made seeing this abundance of Red-headed Woodpeckers extremely thrilling.  Never mind that this Woodpecker is ridiculously striking in appearance, sporting a bold, simplistic color pattern.

Red-headed WoodpeckerRed-headed WoodpeckerEvan enjoyed looking at all these cool Woodpeckers flying around us everywhere.

EvanThen again, who wouldn’t?

Red-headed WoodpeckerIt’s unfortunate that we didn’t have more time to spend with these Woodpeckers at Necedah as other areas of Necedah required exploration before we had to break for supper, hotel check-in, and Kirtland’s scouting.  But it’s good to know there is a place where one can go and see this species with ease.

On the home front, Red-headed Woodpeckers are getting harder and harder to come by.  As I mentioned before, I saw zero RHWO anywhere last year.  So I was quite thrilled when Randy Frederickson and I spotted one just recently in the home county while conducting our annual search for Blue Grosbeaks.

Red-headed WoodpeckerRed-headed Woodpecker

We can only hope that our local population will rebound to become even a fraction of what we saw at Necedah.

4 thoughts on “Necedah: Refuge for the Red-headed Woodpecker

  1. I have really enjoyed everything in the rapid-fire series of posts recently. I think you have captured wonderfully the RHWO stink-eye. More than any other bird, Red-headeds seem to stare directly at you with a look of serious derision.

    I think it’s interesting that you also found one clinging to a utility pole in the middle of an agricultural field. My most recent encounter was exactly the same. What a cool bird.

    • Thanks Greg, this was supposed to be a slow spring/summer for birding and blogging, but the birds have had other plans. I’m currently backlogged again.

      In my area we see RHWOs almost exclusively on utility poles. They nest in farm groves, but I can only ever find them when they go pole to pole. Otherwise they just don’t show for me–they truly are snobs.

  2. All of those Red-headed Woodpeckers in that short distance was astounding. When we started looking, I figured we’d have a few of them, but at least a dozen was beyond measure. The three of us had some killer times on that day at Necedah, that’s for sure. I think Necedah chose their cover bird for their brochure correctly with the Red-headed Woodpecker, and I’m sure that cover was sparked by that oak Savannah area we passed through. I, too, wish we could have had more time there. And your 100% right Josh, this is a bird that would never get old, just like Scarlet Tanagers.

    • It would have been fun to see just how many we could have dug up.

      RHWO makes a good poster child, you are right about that.

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