Monday, April 09, 2007

Red Belly

Red-bellied woodpecker, male, photographed on Saturday in the snow and through a closed sliding glass door.
He's showing off just a touch of his namesake belly color.

As a beginning bird watcher I often wondered about certain bird names. Why was the ring-necked duck so named? Where's the ring on the neck? And the red-bellied woodpecker? I never saw its red belly. These names are left over from the era of shotgun ornithology, when birds were shot, then examined in the hand for unique field marks.

It's hard to see the subtle ring around the neck of the ring-necked duck, unless one is lying in your hands and its head is dangling lifelessly downward, exposing the full length of the neck. Red-bellied woodpeckers in their normal pattern of living, keep their bellies firmly propped against tree trunks, making any red feathers very hard to see. Again, on a bird in the hand, those red belly feathers pop right out at you.

I'm glad we're not still shooting birds to identify them. It's loud, bloody, hard to do, and too hard on the birds.


At 1:15 PM, Blogger Mary said...

Thank you! Been photographing birds for a short while and have been wondering where the red in the belly is...


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