Sunday, December 24, 2006

Riverside Park: Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker
Riverside Park, New York City
(add'l RHWO images by Cal — at his site click image to advance)

This afternoon (24 Dec) I headed over to Riverside Park after spending some time in Central Park at the reservoir to view the Common Loon. The loon was located on the east side of the divide and was feeding for a good portion of the time I was observing it.

At Riverside Park there is an immature Red-headed Woodpecker which was discovered on December 15th by Lenore Swenson.

Today was my first attempt to see it. At 2:45pm I arrived at the spot, just west of 92nd St. and Riverside Drive, and was lucky enough to observe it before I was able to get my binoculars out.

The majority of the activity, including an evening roost hole, is located just west of the road where the M5 bus runs. The territory extends at least from 91st to 93rd St.

Here's a link to a Google Earth map showing the location.

In direct sunlight this bird shows a small amount of red behind the eye and some red along the base of the neck. It is actively defending a territory chasing off many Tufted Titmice and the occasional starling.

It spent most of the time managing its food cache either by adding to it or by moving items from one site to another. At one point it made use of some fibers to help seal in a spot which was just filled with an acorn.

Woodpecker vs. Starling

There was an incident between a starling and the woodpecker. Around 4:10pm a starling was perched near the freshly made roost hole created by the woodpecker. When the woodpecker flew a short distance away from the hole the starling beelined it to the hole and made itself at home.

Almost immediately the Red-headed Woodpecker flew to the edge of the hole, peered in a few times and then entered it and somehow came up with a starling. When the intruder was brought to the edge of the hole both birds started to fall and just before hitting the ground they separated. The starling flew back up to a perch near the hole.

The woodpecker returned and perched at the hole's edge. The woodpecker peered in it a few times and then entered but left a few moments later. The starling was still in the same location above the hole. At this point the woodpecker decided to fly at the starling a few times which eventually drove it off towards the north. The starling never returned to bother the woodpecker.

Roost Hole

I went to the site tonight to see if it was possible to find out where the woodpecker would roost for the night. I've followed the roosting activities of wintering Red-headed Woodpeckers in Central Park and found this a rewarding activity.

Tonight the event took longer than I thought it would. In the past, I recalled the Red-heads would go to roost well before sunset. In those days I would watch a Red-headed go to roost and then would have plenty of time to arrive at the Long-eared Owl roost to watch them fly out.

Tonight at 4:38pm, 5 minutes after sunset, the Red-headed Woodpecker entered the hole the starling attempted to take and after dipping its head in and out roughly 30 times it entered for the evening. The woodpecker was visible for a short time afterwards since it poked its head out a few times giving three by-standers great looks in the waning light. Also at the post fly-in were Mike and Marie Winn.

I have a feeling the starling had something to pass on to its roost mates.


Tag said...

Merry Christmas, Ben.

Ideally, you'll come to visit us in the evening and do a little astro stuff like days of past.

Wishing you a happy New Year. peter

Ben C. said...

Merry Christmas Peter,

Yes. I will be stopping by but have found my nights spent in front of the keyboard lately even though I've been on vacation for the past week.

Will see you in the park soon.

Donegal Browne said...

Merry Christmas Ben,

Thank you for the Woodpecker vs Starling sighting. It made my day.


wolf21m said...

Great picture and great story. Thanks for sharing.