Readers’ wildlife photos

September 4, 2022 • 8:00 am

Thanks to some readers, we have a few days’ respite here, but start thinking about sending in some photos.

Today’s contribution is the Sunday assortment of themed bird photos taken by biologist John Avise. His captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.


I love woodpeckers for several reasons.  As a group they are relatively easy to identify by their tree-clinging habits and their distinctive “bouncy” flight patterns.  They often give themselves away by sharp vocalizations or by the loud tapping sounds they make when drilling their nest cavities.  I like the way they ratchet themselves up tree trunks by using their claws and stiff tail feathers.

And woodpeckers play important ecological roles, not only by eating destructive insects but also by excavating tree holes that later may be adopted by other cavity-nesting birds.  The only thing I don’t like about woodpeckers is their annoying habit of moving to the backside of a tree trunk whenever I get close enough to try for a picture!  North America is home to more than 20 species of woodpeckers.  This week’s post shows about a dozen of these the species that I’ve managed to photograph in the indicated states.

Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus (California):

Lewis’s Woodpecker, Melanerpes lewis (California):

Gila Woodpecker, Melanerpes uropygialis (Arizona):

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus (Florida):

Downy Woodpecker male, Picoides pubescens (California):

Downy Woodpecker female (California):

Hairy Woodpecker male, Picoides villosus (Colorado):

Hairy Woodpecker female (Michigan):

American Three-toed Woodpecker, Picoides tridactylus (Alaska):

Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii (California):

Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Picoides scalaris (California):

White-headed Woodpecker, Picoides albolarvatus (California):

Red-naped Sapsucker, Sphyrapicus nuchalis (California):

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker adult, Sphyrapicus varius (California):

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker juvenile (Michigan):

Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus (Michigan):

16 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Great set! The light coming through the wings – is that what I see? Magnificent photo!

    I didn’t know Flickers are types of Woodpeckers.

  2. What?! No Ivory-billed? Why, my cousin saw one just last week!

    I’m glad these birds stayed long enough on your side of the tree for such lovely photos and, honestly, I did not know that Flickers (we called them “flickas”) are woodpeckers either.

  3. Excellent photos, I too love woodpeckers (who doesn’t, right?). We have both the hairy and the downy, and I can never tell them apart. You’re photos are a good reference, esp. since you have both species right next to each other. I’ll keep this post handy. I was surprised I didn’t see a pileated in this lovely collection…

      1. For a big bird, they are difficult to capture. Esp. if not using lures like suet (the only way I’ve captured sharp shots of the bird). But no “sorry”, please…your photos, or lack thereof in this case, have no room for that word. Time and place is all…though that can also be a tall order!

    1. The hairy, as well as being bigger, has a bill that is proportionally bigger still (slightly.). This makes their silhouettes just different enough to distinguish them quickly, especially if you have a yard full of both, for practice.

      I love woodpeckers!

      We had three pileated woodpeckers at once at a suet feeder in the spring. They look like pterodactyls.

      1. Thanks Leslie, those are good tips for identification.

        3 pileated at once? Lucky guy! The most I’ve seen at one time is 2. Yes, very pterodactyl-like.

  4. Nice pictures and pretty bird but the nasty acorn woodpeckers out here like to punch holes and store nuts in the wood house trim. [The only woodpecker photos i have are some grainy ones from a few years ago visit back home to New Orleans, the woodpecker was much larger than these and had a long white bill.]

    1. I didn’t post my pictures of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker because there are already lots of them in the literature!

  5. The American Three-toed Woodpecker is Picoides dorsalis. P. tridactylus is the Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker. Nuttall’s Woodpecker is Dryobates nuttallii. Clearly a three and a four-toed woodpecker would not be in the same genus. So, the Ladder-backed Woodpecker, also with four toes, is Drybates scalaris.

    1. I guess some Latin nomenclatures must have changed since my edition of Sibley’s book. Another surprising phylogenetic peculiarity is that the Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers may not be sister taxa (or so I’ve read) despite their extremely close similarity in plumage.

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