Red Belly Presto Chango


It was raining, hard. Maybe the rain would melt the snow. The shades had been opened in the addition since the temperatures had moderated some. There were birds at the feeders, a joyful sight, always. The tripod was set up and the Canon sx1 had been placed on the heat register to warm so it would turn on more quickly. Clean the windows? Nah. Then the chickadees, sparrows, finches and wrens scattered. It was the arrival of one higher on the pecking order that was the cause.

Oh, what a gorgeous being. A bit sassy, too.

She would take a seed from the feeder, doing contortions to reach inside the squirrel quelling bars with her elegant ebony beak, then fly to the multi trunk silver maple to pound the seed against the bark to expose the luscious kernal inside. She moved up the tree to a favorite spot with a lichen doily with each seed procured. Click.

My attention had been on the LCD screen of the camera, trying to center the ever moving image in the grid. In the blink of an eye there was a miraculous reddening on the head of the larger bird.

The routine was exactly the same. A seed would be snatched from the feeder.

Creep and hop up the trunk…

…To the lichen plated dining room.

There were other dinner guests that day, some preferred to sit at the bar.

The actors in this story were played by themselves, Melanerpes carolinus, Red Bellied Woodpeckers, male and female and a young Turdus migratorius, American Robin. As to the dining habits of the zebra backed red caps, it appears that chivalry is indeed dead.


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26 Responses to Red Belly Presto Chango

  1. Ellada says:

    His so cute, I like how is head is red. Great post.

    Hi Ellada, thanks. Aren’t they beautiful birds? They also have a distinctive chirping, so I know when they are around. πŸ™‚

  2. Fabulous! We very occasionally see woodpeckers when out walking and it is always a huge thrill. I love the red-bellied one very ‘stylish’ and fantastic photos.

    Hi Arabella, thanks. We are thrilled to see and hear the woodpeckers around here as well. Those reds really show up in the winter landscape of grey and brown. πŸ™‚

  3. What a stunning bird, well caught Frances, and thank you for “higher up the pecking order”, gave me a much needed chuckle!

    Hi Janet, thanks. I was lucky that day, having the tripod set up inside the house while the rain was melting the snow. The birds were everywhere with the newly available seed since the snow was gone. πŸ™‚

  4. Great shots of the woodpecker. Your sequencing is great. I get them at my feeder too, mostly in the winter and they are indeed fun to watch. I haven’t seen that many Robins around though.

    Hi Karin, thanks so much. Seeing the large bright colored birds is thrilling. The robins were by the pond that day. There were also cedar waxwings with the robins, they often travel together, but I was not able to get a shot of them. Maybe next time. πŸ™‚

  5. Donna says:

    The woodpecker is such a pretty bird. Amazing you caught him in the act. Yesterday, I caught a hawk in my back yard feasting on his lasted meal of dove . With all the birds that you have on your property, I guess this occurs there too. The doves are just too slow to get away.

    Hi Donna, thanks. The feeders are situated so I can watch them from the addition with ease, and set the camera up there too. I have to take the shots through the glass, which should be cleaned, but it works well. We hear the hawks often, and there are turkey vultures always about, circling overhead. There is a food chain outback in the garden, working as it is designed.

  6. Victoria says:

    Wonderful shots. it’s always so exciting to see a more unusual bird in the garden.

    Hi Victoria, thanks. This is when we notice the birds the most. The feeders are kept at full to help lure them. I remember the wonderful birds in your garden, all unusual to us! πŸ™‚

  7. Randy says:


    These birds are fun to watch. Seems it posed well for you. The red-bellies here are very shy and avoid dropping in when sitting out they with a camera at all cost.

    Hi Randy, thanks. It was raining and I was inside with the tripod set up in the addition. I think the rain helped disguise me too. They seem to see me even inside if I wear bright colors. Need to stay with basic black! When I am working outside without a camera at hand, all sorts of birds come very close to me. That is the way it works! πŸ™‚

  8. Donna says:

    what a great show and you are so fortunate to have a great seat!!

    Hi Donna, thanks. Yes, I am very lucky in many ways, but did place the bird feeders with my viewing from inside the house in mind. Fill them, the feeders, and they will come! πŸ™‚

  9. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I have been doing a lot of bird watching from the patio doors. The birds are becoming a bit desperate with all the snow cover and cold. Your pictures are gorgeous. I love the lichen tablecloth that the red bellied preferred.

    Hi Lisa, thanks. I agree about the snow. The ground feeders especially could not get to the seed and even the perches on the hanging feeders were blocked. Thank goodness our snow is gone, for now. More in the forecast! Stay warm, my friend. πŸ™‚

  10. gail says:

    Frances, He’s a beauty and you can just see the reddish feathers on his belly! I see the big guys in the trees~It’s the cutie pie Downy Woodpeckers that visit the suet here. I love watching the birds at the feeder and have set my tripod to capture them through the patio door, too. The snow has meted here and revealed the brown garden! Looks like work ahead! The weather may cooperate. xxoogail

    Hi Gail, thanks. Those Downys are very cute, too. It sure is warmer to have the tripod set up indoors, isn’t it? The glass could be cleaner, but it really doesn’t seem to matter much. Snow melting is a good thing! I will be out again today. Clean up calls!

  11. Very nice F. We had one on our peanut feeder this weekend. It’s thrilling to see them. I wish I could capture the photos like you do. H.

    Thanks Helen, you are too kind. Your garden and photos are wonderful. The birds give us so much pleasure all the year, but right now they are a lifeline to happiness! πŸ™‚

  12. Layanee says:

    Did you spray paint that bird’s head? He is a beauty. The birds are flocking to the feeders here with all the snow on the ground. I love seeing yours.

    HA Layanee, thanks! The birds here are very happy to have the ground showing so they can get those scattered seeds. I have been tossing lots onto the beds to accommodate more visitors. πŸ™‚

  13. What a delight.I think I like that you are an enchanting story teller. It’s always fun to walk into your gardens and share your adventures.

    Hi Patsy, thanks for that, you are too sweet! πŸ™‚

  14. Randy Andrson says:

    Thanks for showing us another day in your garden. I had one the other day that did a presto changeo too. I’d been watching a Red breasted Nuthatch in the view finder taking pictures with the next click it was a Red Breasted Woodpecker. Thanks again Randy!

    Hi Randy, how fun! We had a little nuthatch here, scavenging on the ground, I couldn’t get a good shot, he moved too fast. Isn’t it fun how they do the presto chango act! πŸ™‚

  15. dirtynailz says:

    Aren’t you lucky to have been there to see that beautiful bird! That’s what I love about nature. If you’re observant and patient, you are sometimes rewarded with wonderful surprises. Great pics, Frances.


    Thanks, Cynthia. I am so very lucky, about many things, and count my blessings every single day. Seeing the birds and being able to get some photos made for a very good day. πŸ™‚

  16. Leslie says:

    What completely wonderful photos! If I had that view I would never get anything else done.

    Hi Leslie, thanks. I need those views to help my brain recharge. It really makes your mind relax. πŸ™‚

  17. commonweeder says:

    You are lucky to have such beautiful birds near the house. We have cats and don’t feed the birds at feeders, and right now with nearly two feet of snow on the ground I am not hiking in the woods.

    Hi Pat, thanks. We are very lucky in many ways. The feeders were placed, and moved around each year to save the garden plants under them, for my viewing pleasure. It sounds like you need snowshoes, my friend. πŸ™‚

  18. What a cute, cheeky little thing!

    I thought so, MMD! She really was spunky! That is always a trait I admire. πŸ™‚

  19. joey says:

    Such handsome fellows. What a delightful way to spend the day πŸ™‚

    Hi Joey, thanks. This appeared to be a female first, then a male with more red on his head. I do love watching their antics, and all the birds, especially in winter. πŸ™‚

  20. Cindy, MCOK says:

    What a gorgeous creature! I have one at my feeder every couple of days whose routine is much the same. The goldfinches don’t completely scatter, though, but they do let the woody have a feeder to itself.

    Hi Cindy, thanks for joining in here. I am glad to hear you have peaceful coexistance in Katy. πŸ™‚

  21. Janet says:

    What fun to watch the woodpeckers —so were they eating the lichen? Maybe they were lining a nest with it!

    Hi Janet, thanks for visiting. It seemed that the woodpeckers liked that spot with the lichen to crack the sunflower seed open. I don’t think they were eating the lichen. Maybe it padded the blow?

  22. Lola says:

    Gorgeous. They seem to pose for you. Poor little Robin looks so lonely. Was he/she the only one?

    Hi Lola, thanks. It did seem like they were posing oh so prettily for the camera. The robin was one of many birds visiting the pond, including cedar waxwings. I couldn’t get a shot of them, sad to say.

  23. I can never get over the fact that their name is red-bellied woodpecker with such a red head. There is an explanation but I don’t remember what it is. Doesn’t change how beautiful the bird is.

    Hi Carolyn, I agree, although there is some reddish on the belly of these birds, you just can’t see it since they always have their belly to the tree trunk. There is another called the red headed woodpecker, in addition to the pileated. We have the pileated in the surrounding tall trees, but not the red head.

  24. Rose says:

    What delightful dinner guests, Frances, even if their manners are lacking! I’ve been complaining about the lack of the usual woodpeckers in my garden this winter; I’m not sure why they’re not visiting, but maybe I should check to see if I have any lichen doilies.

    Hi Rose, thanks for dropping by. It seemed we were not being visited by the woodpeckers as frequently as past years, but they seem to be hanging around now that the feeders are filled to the brim and the snow has melted. Lichen doilies are optional. (Thanks, Rose, I can always count on you to catch the wordplay.) πŸ™‚

  25. I love our woodpeckers too. One year we had a pair select one of the holes in our elm tree to raise their family in. It was so much fun to watch the kids looking out the hole in anticipation of the food deliveries, and fledging day was a riot.

    No, they don’t feed each other like the cardinals do during mating season, but I’m not sure that chivalry really is dead even so.

    Great photostory.

    Hi Hands, thanks. What a sweet story! We once had a family of downys in the same multitrunk maple tree featured here. Seeing and hearing the little darlings was indeed a pleasure. It was disconcerting to see the parents making a hole large enough in a snag to hold the next, and the limb later fell to earth with no injuries to humans, thank goodness. πŸ™‚

  26. Marguerite says:

    Frances when I first saw your photo I thought it was a Northern Flicker but as the head continued to turn red I was surprised. What an amazing trick!

    Hi Marguerite, thanks for stopping by. I love the Flickers, have seen a couple around here over the years, such beautiful birds. These woodpeckers are braver, coming close to the house to visit the feeders and hang out in the maple tree. They are quite the magicians! πŸ™‚

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