Avian Red Wake-up
High in the tree branches in Riverside Park, a small, brilliant flash of red startled me. It soon revealed itself to be the head of a black-and-white woodpecker. The little fellow was very active, hopping from one branch to another with great rapidity, ducking behind branches and twigs, making it hard for me to get a good look at its entire form. And, of course, I had left behind both my binoculars and my camera.
Was the beautiful bird a Red-bellied woodpecker?
(Despite its name, the Red-bellied woodpecker is notably black and white with a red cap and nape. The name derives from a reddish tinge on the belly that is really only visible when the bird is examined close up.) I watched until the bird swooped off, scalloping the air, to another tree. But when I got home and opened a bird book, it was the the flash of a red cap that lit the image in my mind. A red cap, not a red cap and nape. So hmmm…
Could it have been a yellow-bellied sapsucker?
Both birds are seen in NYC parks, although the Yellow-bellied sapsucker is apparently less common. But something about the coloring, and even the cap, just doesn’t seem quite right when compared with the bird in my mind’s eye. So I believe it was a Red-bellied. Next time I’ll know better how to look at a red-headed woodpecker to note its defining marks.
The unexpected flash of avian red has stayed with me, like a wake-up of some kind. “Sleeper, awake!” the little bird signaled to me. A good jolt with which to start a new year.
Since I have no photo of my woodpecker, here is a different bit of vibrant wake-up-the-new-year red, photographed by a friend on his morning walk.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!2012, Birds, Central Park, In the City, NYC Parks, Riverside Park, Seasons, Wildlife/Natural History, Winter
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