Woodpecker Brawl


It is snowing again on the mountain.  I had just come in from picking the new metal birdfeeders up off of the ground, putting them back together (sigh, the never ending battle with the bears.  Aren’t they suppose to be sleeping?) and filling them.  Standing at the kitchen sink contemplating buying more of the broomstick hooks to get the feeders higher in the trees, I saw a flash of red.  A Red-bellied Woodpecker was flying to a feeder, selecting a sunflower seed then hopping to the tree to peck it open.  I took these shots through the glass of the French door to the deck.  (Notice the White-breasted Nuthatch on the right of the tree?  That was a surprise.)


He methodically hopped back and forth from feeder to tree for several minutes;


when, from out of the swirling snow, another male Red-bellied flew straight at him, taking him by surprise.  They both flew off unscathed and did not come back.    I have never seen this behavior.  Heck, I have never seen two male Red-bellied Woodpeckers in my backyard although I have a resident pair that nest on the property.  I guess one was an interloper.

Have you seen woodpeckers brawling?


Filed under backyard, Photos

20 responses to “Woodpecker Brawl

  1. Wow, great action shots, Bev!

  2. Holy crap! It’s like fight club for the picidae crowd.

  3. SusanLM4

    Fantastic photos! I’ve seen Woodpeckers chase each other for the nuggets one was munching but I’ve never seen one actually attack another. Maybe all that snow has them bugged out!

  4. WOW – these photos are absolutely FANTASTIC – thanks for sharing them!

    I have seen woodpeckers brawling before. Usually it’s just a lot of head-bobbing and wing-fluttering with woodpeckers, but I did see a (literal) knock-down, drag-out fight once between two Hairy WPs that lasted almost five minutes in early March (while they’re drumming and setting up territories) Not at a food source like this though.

  5. I have never seen the like before! I wish woodpeckers would come to my feeders and suet feeder, but I have never seen one at them. I see them in the woods, but my feeders must be too exposed for them.

  6. As if there weren’t enough sunflower seeds for everyone. Evidently, this brawl was all about territory and not food, which is a little unusual for most birds mid-winter. Maybe it isn’t unusual for woodpeckers.

    Great shots capturing the action.

  7. Which camera did you take these photos with? Awesome! You also have a knack for being in the right place at the right time!

  8. I took these with the Rebel. But it was really luck. I happened to click at the exact moment that the defender (?) flew in. It was all over in a fraction of a second. You’re right, it was really being in the right place at the right time.

  9. Steve Mattan

    I’ve not, but Michael Hogan has:


    I’ve talked to him about these images and he said the two went at it for some time.

  10. Larry Sheldon

    Redbellies are easily the most belligerent critter on the platform feeder.

    They chase (or try to) everything. The Chicadees don’t take much crap from anybody, but they don’t start it.

  11. Way to be in the right place at the right time. So cool!

  12. These are great. You really get the feeling of cold snow, and love the one w/2 on either side of the multi-tasking tree!

    How long is your lens on that camera?

  13. Barbara

    FANTASTIC photos – thanks!!!
    I have never seen Woodpeckers brawling before…..something more I just learned today from a blog. 🙂

    Happy New Year and thanks sharing your pictures and adventures in 2008!

  14. Really nice series of photos! Have a wonderful and birdy new year.

  15. Great shots. Your window must be really clean – the few times I’ve taken a picture through the window, you could…tell. 🙂 Love that you captured the nuthatch on the tree with the woodpecker.

  16. Can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like this either but our sightings of Red Bellies are fairly uncommon. Apparently they aren’t as docile as the Downy Woodpeckers of which we see so often.

    Wonderful shots! Thank you for sharing them with us! And I didn’t even notice the Nuthatch until you pointed it out. They are such a sweet little comical bird.

  17. Hi Donna,

    I was using a Canon 55-250mm.

  18. Why in the world are these called red-bellied? I guess because red-headed was already taken.

    Beautiful birds. Great shots. I love the nuthatch hiding there off to the side.

  19. Great sequence of photos! I’ve never seen more than one male red-bellied at my house. To see a brawl would shock me!


  20. Pingback: SkyWatch « Behind the Bins

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s