Yvonne has been photographing and studying birds for 40+ years. She maintains bird and butterfly gardens in her Louisiana backyard habitat.
Southeastern Louisiana Woodpecker Species
Woodpeckers abound in our 9-acre habitat along the Tchefuncte River in southeastern Louisiana. After Hurricane Katrina left so many broken and dying trees that could be used as nesting cavities, these birds had a population explosion. The dead trees also contain insect larvae, which are food for all kinds of woodpeckers. Additionally, dead trees are used as food storage receptacles by red-bellied woodpeckers and others.
There are 6 types of woodpeckers verified as living in southeastern Louisiana. They are (according to size) the pileated, red-bellied, red-headed, red-cockaded, hairy and downy woodpeckers. The ivory-billed woodpecker, which was once thought to be extinct, has been sighted in the Pearl River Swamp area along the Louisiana-Mississippi line.
We have five species of woodpeckers living and nesting in our habitat along the Tchefuncte River. The red-cockaded are endangered and live nearby on one of The Nature Conservancy's preserves. We do not have the virgin forest land required by the possibly extinct ivory-billed woodpeckers (oh, if only). I'll share my knowledge of the five interesting and beautiful bird species that live in our habitat, as well as a few of the pictures that I've taken through the years.
Pileated - the Largest Woodpecker
The pileated woodpecker is a large, crow-sized woodpecker. They live mostly in mature forest land. They require rotting trees for the insect larvae that it contains and also in which to build peck out a nesting cavity. The nesting cavities are large and are often used by wood ducks after the woodpeckers are finished with them.
Pileated woodpeckers will tear apart rotting wood, and many people with log houses have trouble with these birds trying to drill out a cavity or just searching for insect larvae in the logs of the house.
These large woodpeckers eat mostly ants, as well as beetles, particularly the larvae of wood boring species. Plant food of eastern birds includes the fruits of grape, black gum, Virginia creeper, Sassafras, Holly, Dogwood, greenbrier, viburnum, poison ivy, palmetto and magnolia.
Red-Bellied: The Most Common
Red-bellied woodpeckers are the most common woodpecker here along the Tchefuncte River. Several pairs nest here in our habitat, and we have been lucky to photograph a nesting cavity and the male red-bellied with some fledglings. Red-bellieds nest in rotting pine trees, and since we have over 100 snags left from Hurricane Katrina, they have been nesting like crazy.
Male red-bellieds have red from the beak to the nape of the neck. The red area on females is only on the back of the head to the nape of the neck. The fledglings have gray heads until they molt into adult plummage.
It has been six years since Katrina and each windstorm brings down some of these pine snags. In fact, this morning, one fell across one side of the circular drive. As you can see in the picture below, it had several woodpecker holes in the top part.
Red-bellied woodpeckers enjoy sunflower seeds, so they are regular visitors to the bird feeders. They also eat a lot of acorns and small fruits. Animal food includes beetles and their larvae, ants, grasshoppers, crickets and caterpillars.
Red Headed Woodpeckers
Red-headed Woodpeckers remind many people of "Woody the Woodpecker." Actually, Woody was a compilation of a pileated and red-headed woodpecker, so he is one of a kind. Red-headeds have suffered from nest predation since the introduction of the European Starling. The starling competes with these woodpeckers for nesting sites. Luckily, we don't have European Starlings in our habitat, so the woodpeckers that nest here, usually are successful.
Male and female red-headeds are identical. The young fledglings have black heads until they molt into their adult plumage.
Red-headed woodpeckers are also regular visitors to the sunflower seed feeder. In the wild, they eat many beetles, ants and others of the ant family, grasshoppers and caterpillars. Plant food includes fruit and seeds of oak, corn, wild cherry, mulberry, blackberry, elderberry, apple and grape.
Downy and Hairy: The Smallest Woodpeckers
Downy and hairy woodpeckers are sometimes hard to tell apart. There are many downy woodpeckers in our habitat, but only a few of the larger Hairy. The best way to tell the two apart, besides their size, is by looking at the underside of the tail feathers. Downy woodpeckers have dark marks on the underside of the white tail feathers. The Downy's call is sweeter and higher pitched than the Hairy.
The male and female look very much alike, except the males have a red spot on the back of his head.
Downy woodpeckers often visit the sunflower seed feeders. Downy and Hairy woodpeckers also eat wood-boring larvae of beetles and moths, adult beetles, spiders, millipedes and ants. Plant food includes the fruit of poison ivy, dogwood, corn, serviceberry, Oak, Virginia creeper, apple and hop-hornbeam.
Many experts believe that somewhere deep in the unspoiled forest of Louisiana, the ivory-billed woodpecker still flies. Recent sightings have heightened the fervor of the search. Personally, I hope that this beautiful giant still lives and that its unusual tinny call can be heard deep in some old-growth forest.
© 2011 Yvonne L. B.
Peck out a comment, please.
Yvonne L. B. (author) from South Louisiana on May 30, 2018:
Wonderful. She may have a nest nearby.
Cristy Bell on March 06, 2017:
I have several species of wood peckers on my property, some are very rare!
terrynewman on May 31, 2014:
We have a woodpecker that its colors are red white andblack or blue. What's this birds. Name.
Yvonne L. B. (author) from South Louisiana on July 09, 2011:
So true... What's hard is to take your eyes off of "the show" and turn back to the computer screen.
Phooey! I'm going to take the dogs for a walk in the woods later when the sun is not so high in the sky. It's always cooler by the water and there's a lot more of his work to see down there.
Apostle Jack on July 09, 2011:
Amazing and beautiful.As a bird watcher I am in constant amazement of God's creations.Good show.
Yvonne L. B. (author) from South Louisiana on July 09, 2011:
Thanks Diana Lee,
I enjoy watching and photographing all species of birds, but I especially enjoy the woodpeckers.
Diana L Pierce from Potter County, Pa. on July 08, 2011:
Birds are so much fun to watch. Good hub.