Red Feathers, Eyes and Bills

March 12, 2014  •  2 Comments

Red-bellied Woodpecker (male)Red-bellied Woodpecker (male)

On January 6th, I posted a blog titled "Change of Plans", in which I talked about rescuing a badly injured, male Red-breasted Woodpecker and taking it to a local wildlife rehabilitation center for injured or orphaned wildlife.  I recently received an email from them to tell me the woodpecker was in a bad way when I brought him in but he is a fighter and is in their pre-flight cage, soon to be released.

They thanked me for saving his life but many thanks go out to them for doing the work they do.  I think wildlife is insignificant to many people.  Of course, those people wouldn't be reading a wildlife photography blog so you know you are not one of them.  Being free to fly in the woods again probably won't make a difference in the world but it certainly made a difference for him.  I am happy to be part of that.  

The photos to the left and below are both males.  If you learn their call, you will notice these birds everywhere.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (male)Red-bellied Woodpecker (male)

Red-breasted Woodpecker (male)


In some Eastern Native American folklore, the Merganser Duck plays the role of Earthdiver, being the only animal to succeed at diving to the ocean floor to bring up earth for the Creator or other animals to make land with.  The male Red-breasted Merganser's breeding plumage includes an iridescent greenish black head, white neck, rusty chest speckled with black, white, gray and black body, scarlet bill and red eyes.

Red-breasted MerganserRed-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser (male)


I am very fortunate to make the next two photographs of a Red-necked Grebe, a first-timer for me.  As you can see on the map to the right, the Red-necked Grebe breeds in central and western Canada and Alaska (shown in green).  They winter along the western and eastern coasts (shown in gray).  During migration (yellow), Lake Erie would be the closest stopover that I could find them.  Maps like this can be found on almost any bird oriented website and books.    

This year, with the Great Lakes being frozen over, the Red-necked Grebe's, dawning their breeding colors, showed up in Pymatuning Lake where overpasses seemed to have created enough warmth that the water didn't freeze over.

If you see this bird in the fall it will be mainly gray with a pale face.  The next two images are of a Red-necked Grebe in breeding colors. 

Red-necked GrebeRed-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe


The Red-necked Grebe migrates over land strictly at night.  It sometimes migrates over water or along coasts by day, in large flocks.  The Red-necked Grebe, like other Grebe's, ingest large quantities of their own feathers.  They even feed their feathers to their young.  The feathers stay in their stomach and although it is unknown why they do that, one thought is the feathers help protect their digestive tract from bones and other hard materials they eat.

Red-necked GrebeRed-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe


Red-headed WoodpeckerRed-headed Woodpecker


Another first time photograph for me is the Red-headed Woodpecker.

This species has declined severely in the past fifty years because of habitat loss and changes to its food supply. 

This bird is different than most woodpeckers in that it catches insects on the fly.  They are also one of the few woodpecker species that stores food for the winter months and the only one known to cover food with bark and other wood.

According to the National Audubon Society, the Red-headed Woodpecker is listed as a vulnerable species in Canada and is listed on multiple state threatened species lists in the United States.

The photos shown here were taken from 50 yards away.  Hopefully, sometime in the future, I will get a closer, more detailed photograph of this gorgeous bird.

Red-headed WoodpeckerRed-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker


The Common Merganser will form pairs in late winter.  Until then, it is common to see them in small flocks composed entirely of males or females.  Below is a lone male I found at Pymatuning Lake.

Common Merganser (male)Common Merganser (male)

Common Merganser (male)


The Common Merganser will lay their eggs in a down-lined tree cavity, on the ground, or in an abandoned hawk's nest.  These two females were also photographed at Pymatuning Lake in the same area as the male from above.

Common Merganser (females)Common Merganser (females)

Common Merganser (female)


Well, that's all for now.  Hopefully we will soon see more consistent warm weather to thaw Lake Arthur and attract migrating waterfowl.  There are so many species that migrate through Pennsylvania and I hope to have the opportunity to photograph as many as I can.

Thanks for looking,



Dan Gomola Wildlife Photography
Thanks Willard. There were a lot of Red-bellied Woodpeckers around that day that when I saw the Red-Headed I almost ignored it.
Willard Hill(non-registered)
More super images. I have only been close enough to photograph a red headed woodpecker one time. That was with the 300mm and 2x extender and I still wish it had been only half as far away.
No comments posted.

January February (1) March (1) April May June (1) July August (1) September October November December (1)
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June (3) July (5) August (5) September (1) October November (1) December
January (1) February March April May June (4) July August September October (1) November (2) December (1)
January February March April May June (1) July (1) August September October November December (1)
January (1) February March (1) April May June July August September October November December