Red-bellied Woodpeckers have extended their breeding range northward and westward over the last 50 years and are now breeding in northern New England. Many are year-round residents here, while some individuals move further south during particularly harsh winters. This range extension allows for observations not possible even 10 or 20 years ago.
While watching a Red-bellied Woodpecker this summer, I witnessed behavior I had never observed before. The bird flew repeatedly to the same tree branch, flattened itself on the branch with its body facing the sun and then fanned its wings out while cocking its head, raising its crown feathers, opening its beak and appearing to look at the sun. This behavior is common enough to have a name – the woodpecker was “sunning” itself. While preening, stretching and calling often takes place intermittently while the bird is engaged in sunning, it may also enter a stupor or state of lethargy. (Thanks to Cindy Lawrence for photo op.)
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