Opinion Column

Birdwatch: Rare bird sighting reported on Rantz Road

Ken Hooles

By Ken Hooles, Daily Observer

On Oct. 23, a rare Red-bellied Woodpecker appeared at the bird feeder of Lucinda Vienneau of Rantz Road.

On Oct. 23, a rare Red-bellied Woodpecker appeared at the bird feeder of Lucinda Vienneau of Rantz Road.


On Oct. 23, a rare Red-bellied Woodpecker appeared at the bird feeder of Lucinda Vienneau of Rantz Road. This is our first rare bird of the fall migration and was confirmed by two excellent photographs. Since then, the bird has only made one other appearance, but I suspect it is still in the neighbourhood.

While still considered a rare bird sighting for our area, Red-bellied Woodpecker reports have gradually increased annually over the past decade, especially in the fall. At first, the sighting of these birds was considered to be the result of reverse migration; however, the increase in sightings suggests that these birds may slowly be increasing their range into Renfrew County, very much like other bird species have over the years. Who knows, the Red-bellied Woodpecker may one day be as common as our Cardinals! The last two official reports were on Nov. 4, 2012 and Nov. 3, 2010.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) is a woodpecker from the eastern United States. It is quite adaptable, and can commonly be found in the states in southern pine forests, northern hardwood forests, scattered trees and even urban parks.

It is easily identified by its zebra-like barring on its back and its red crown and nape; it has a white rump seen in flight and a pale greyish face and chin. It gets its name from the slight reddish colouring on its chest that is not easily seen or visible unless examined closely.

This woodpecker tends to be very noisy and likes to do a lot of drumming on trees, especially during breeding season. It roosts and nests in tree cavities, and it enjoys a large variety of foods, which allows it to fit into many environments. It eats insects, berries, vegetables, seeds and even sap from sapsucker holes.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is a solitary nester. In its northern range, it has only one brood per year; however, those in the southern warmer climates tend to have two or three broods per year.

This bird likes to build its nest in a cavity of a tree, anywhere from 1.5 to 21 metres above the ground. The nest site is built by both sexes, and both male and female woodpeckers take turns incubating their eggs for about 11 to 14 days. The young woodpeckers are fed by both sexes and remain in the nest for another 22 to 27 days.

This American woodpecker can be found from south of the Great Lakes to the tip of Florida. It is gradually extending its range into southern Quebec and Ontario. At the moment, it is still quite a rare bird for Renfrew County and I encourage those of you who reside in the Rantz Road area or nearby to keep an eye on your feeders for this bird.

On the local scene, the fall migration is still in process with the bird activity mainly on our lakes and in the fields. In the fields, the Canada Geese continue to use our fields as a stopping point on their way south, many in large flocks. Interestingly, I have not heard of any reports of Brant Geese or recent sightings of Snow Geese. There are also several large flocks of Sandhill Cranes, as well as Rough-legged and Red-tailed Hawks, passing through the area as well.

We are still awaiting the arrival of many of the northern migrants. Lake Dore is obviously a good spot to bird watch at this time of year as many of the northern ducks, Scoters and Grebes are now on the lake. There are also several Dark-eyed Juncos, the odd Northern Shrike, American Pipits and lots of American Tree Sparrows along our road sides. We are still waiting for the arrival of Snow Buntings, early Bohemian Waxwings, Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin and both Evening and Pine Grosbeaks. We have had no reports of any of the Northern Owls yet.

On Oct. 31, James Martin of LaPasse spotted a large flock of at least 300 Sandhill Cranes in a field near his home. By the time I arrived on the scene to view these birds, the flock had broken up into two groups and easily numbered this many. It seems that the size of these flocks of Sandhill Cranes is getting larger every year.

This is a great time to update you on the rare and interesting birds that were seen across our province in the month of October. These include a Pink-footed Goose (Casselman), Ross’s Goose (Casselman), Cave Swallow (Point Pelee), Thayer’s Gull (Halliburton), Great White-fronted Geese (Reesor Pond), Pacific Loon (Hamilton), Cattle Egret (Holiday beach), Red Phalarope (Hillman Marsh), Western Sandpiper (Dunnville), Laughing Gull (Rondeau), Fish Crow (Hillman Marsh) and one of the best of the month, a Prairie Falcon (Point Pelee).

Please call me with your bird sightings and feeder reports at 613-735-4430 or email me at hooles@bell.net. For more information on nature sites and upcoming nature events, just Google the Pembroke Area Field Naturalists or like us on Facebook.

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