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Connecticut’s small territory, coupled with less than average ecosystem diversity translates into Connecticut woodpeckers fitting into the most common East Coast woodpeckers category.
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, pictured, provides a great example. It’s the most wide ranging of the four native sapsucker species. It breeds across Canada from Coast to Coast and in the winter returns to most forested areas west of the Rocky Mountains. Connecticut is one of those Yellow-bellied Sapsucker year round homes.
Males have a red crown and throat. Females only have a red crown. Here’s a run down of the remaining six woodpecker species.
Connecticut also hosts the two most common of the nine native Picoides species. The Downy, pictured, is the smallest and most common. They live in both the urban and rural areas of the state, and are probably the most common woodpecker that residents will se at their backyard feeder.
Comparing the two pictures under this section provides a first take at woodpecker identification. Physically, the Downy’s black and white feather pattern resembles the slightly larger Hairy Woodpecker. In instances where size comparisons might not be available, experts suggest examining the bill size in relation to the head size. Downy Woodpeckers typically have small bills. Otherwise, the black and white striped face, white belly and back feathers look very similar. Males also have a red crown.
Flickers (genus Colaptes) rank as one of the most common woodpeckers in the United States. They have a presence in every single state, and they adapt to residential areas with little trouble.
Although instances of hybridization continues to be a subject of technical discussion, for practical purposes it’s fine to point out that only two flicker species have been documented. The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) is the species most familiar to Americans and it divides into western and eastern subspecies. The West Coast variant is named the Red-shafted Northern Flicker and the East Coast variant is named the Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker. The color designation refers to the under the wing color of their tail and wing feathers.
Flickers are the ground feeders of the woodpecker family. They prefer open habitats such as fields and residential areas because they supply them with their primary food sources such as insects, seeds and berries. The male is distinguished from the female by the red patch on the cheek.
Popular birds, they are welcome at many back yard feeders and especially enjoy a snack of suet and water. With a life that often exceeds the five year mark, homeowners might expect a long term relationship with any flickers they might attract to the back yard feeder.
The red crested head and white stripes across the face makes it difficult to mistake the Pileated Woodpecker for any other species. It’s the only species in the Dryocopus genus in the United Sates and probably the largest woodpecker in any area.
Pileated Woodpeckers are habitat adaptable. That fact partially explains their range. With the exception of the Rocky Mountain states and the Midwest, they can be found from coast to coast. They need some dense forested area for habitat. In the West, they prefer old growth habitat and in the East they can adapt to the younger forests.
They are described as both shy and adapted to human environments. Their attitude toward humans probably depends on the particulars of their territory. In instances where they breed and live in non-residential areas, they can be shy. There are also ample examples of their being enticed to backyard bird feeders.
Red-bellied woodpeckers are the second of the two wide-spread Melanerpes woodpeckers. They are larger than average birds with an outgoing personality. They easily adapt to backyard feeders and their loud vocalizations can often be heard through the neighborhood.
Physically, the name red-bellied can be a bit misleading because the stomach feathers have barely a hint of red to them. The back and top of the male’s head is red. The female’s head is buffy and the nape is red.
They belong to the same genus as the Acorn Woodpecker, and like them, they are known to store food in cracks in trees. Their diet also consists of in season fruit, nuts and insects.
Red-headed woodpeckers rank as the most wide spread of the Melanerpes species, with a presence in almost every state from the Rocky Mountains and destinations east. That description does not quite hold up for Connecticut. According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environment
The red-headed woodpecker is endangered in Connecticut and is considered one of the rarest breeding birds in the state. A decline in farming and the associated loss of open woodlots through forest succession have reduced the amount of suitable habitat needed by these woodpeckers. As with other woodpecker species, competition with starlings for nest cavities has also contributed to their decline.
It’s physical appearance translates into easy identification. The head, covered in red feathers, along with a white stomach stands out in a crowded woodpecker field. Both males and females share this feature. Juveniles have brown feathers on the head for their first year.