>Rare Red-headed Woodpecker Visits Stony Kill Farm
There’s nothing like a rare bird sighting to attract people to a new bird feeding and viewing area. So, fortune smiled on Stony Kill Farm when its new feeding and viewing area was christened on January 8 by a visit from a red-headed woodpecker. The exciting news of the rare bird’s presence, unmistakable with its totally red head and black and white nearly robin-sized body, soon drew a big crowd.

Rare Bird Alert
In a classic example of nature center and wildlife conservation group cooperation, Stony Kill staff alerted Dutchess County’s Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club, which posted a Rare Bird Alert (RBA) on its website. The next day, club members, visitors of all ages, and DEC staff began flocking to Stony Kill for a look. Within a few days, club photographers had added many photos of the bird, both feeding and in flight, on its website.

As of January 30, the lone male was still visiting Stony Kill’s suet feeder at the Manor House, and the corn crib at the farmstead. If you want to come and see for yourself, please look from indoors at the Manor House to prevent disturbing the bird.

The rare red-headed woodpecker swoops in for some food at Stony Kill—photo courtesy of Steve Golladay

Species of Special Concern
Not to be confused with its near relative, the red-bellied woodpecker whose populations are increasing across New York, the red-headed is in sharp decline and listed as “A Species of Special Concern.” The bird is in trouble despite being at home in old woodland burned areas and recent clearings, as well as wooded parkland and farms where it exploits a diverse variety of food resources. Likely causes are loss of habitat from land development and nest hole competition with European starlings.

Red-headed woodpeckers feed on insects on bark and foliage, and sometimes even snag flying insects, flycatcher-like, in mid-air. Plant foods include acorns, beechnuts, corn, berries and seeds, which are cached in natural cavities. Starlings and jays often raid cache sites. Compare nest site maps from 1980-85 to those from 2000-05 in the newly published Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State by viewing the atlas’s database comparison map on DEC’s website.