Documentation of Red-headed Woodpecker

Observer Information

Reporter:  John Rawinski  239 Cotten Ln.,   MONTE VISTA, CO  81144-9286
Other Observers:  Ted Floyd and David Sibley did a bird trip there the following week and saw the bird as well.

Species, Date, Time and Location Information

Species:  Red-headed Woodpecker
First Date/Time:  5/19/2016 4:30:00 PM
Last Date/Time:  5/19/2016 4:45:00 PM
Duration (total time in view):  15
County:  Alamosa
Specific Location:  Medano-Zapata Ranch
Number:  1
Age:  Adult
Sex:  Unknown
Plumage:  Breeding


Dead Narrowleaf Cottonwood

Viewing Conditions

Optics:  Swarovskis 8X 32
Distance:  100 feet
Light:  sunny afternoon light

Description of the Bird

I was entering the parking lot from the lodge when I saw a large woodpecker-like bird with big white wing patches and white across lower back fly to a dead cottonwood and land about 15 feet up on the tree. I was wearing my binoculars at the time, and focused on the bird, which I immediately knew to be a Red-headed Woodpecker. It was the first I had ever seen in the San Luis Valley though I have seen this species in Lamar and in the midwest states numerous times. It was perched on the side of the tree facing me and slowly moving up it.

It was a little smaller than the size of a Northern Flicker which was higher up in the tree.  I only saw the back of the bird. The body was dark colored, and it had these two large white wing patches on its secondaries, which when folded up looked triangular. The rest of the bird's body was dark colored. The head was entirely a rich red color. After viewing it for a while, I headed back toward my vehicle about 50 feet away to get a camera. When I got back, the bird had moved. So I scanned the trees for a few minutes and relocated it and viewed the same features I had seen in the first encounter. Unfortunately I was using my backup camera and by the time I got it working, the bird had moved again. I never was able to get a photograph.

According to local records, including some with photos, this is the 5th local record for the San Luis Valley. Some have been documented with CBRC, and some are undocumented photos.

When I mentioned this bird to the ranch manager, she said she had seen that bird during the week. So it was there for a few days. Ted Floyd and MOB had seen it the following week.  

I have not seen it again in 2 retrun trips.  

Similar Species Discussion

No other North American woodpecker has this combination of an entirely red head, plus the large triangular white wing patches. Red-breasted Sapsucker would have been smaller and had a mottled appearing back. RB SS would have also lacked the huge amounts of white on the wings. Lewis's Wodpecker, is about the same size, but totally lacks the large white wing patches.

Resources Used

After the sighting, I looked at Sibley and Nat Geo.

Previous Experience

Have seen it in Lamar in some years. Also in Wisconsin in past years. I have not seen Red-breasted Sapsucker, but have seen all the other North American woodpeckers (excluding Ivory-billed Woodpecker).  



Materials Available

No files uploaded.

Date Documentation Submitted

6/8/2016 9:17:00 AM

Location Map

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