Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
PICUS CAROLINUS, Linn.
PLATE CCLXX.--MALE and FEMALE.
Much of what I have said respecting the habits of several of our Spotted
Woodpeckers applies to the present species, which differs, however, in the
greater extent of its migration in the spring and summer months, when the
greater number of those which return from the south to our Middle and Eastern
Districts proceed considerably farther northward than the Hairy Woodpecker,
although not so far as the Canadian. In winter I have found the Red-bellied
Woodpecker the most abundant of all in the pine barrens of the Floridas, and
especially on the plantations bordering the St. John's river, where on any day
it would have been easy to procure half a hundred. Indeed, on this account, and
from its well-known notes, the officers and men of the United States' schooner
Spark, as well as my assistants, always spoke of it by the name of chaw-chaw.
Perhaps it partly obtained this name from the numbers of it cooked by the crew
in the same manner as the dish known to sailors by the same name. It is,
however, less common in the United States than the Hairy Woodpecker; but its
range is as extensive, for I have found it from the Texas to the extremities of
the British provinces of Nova Scotia, and as far inland as I have travelled. It
appears, however, that it does not inhabit the Fur Countries, as no mention is
made of it by Dr. RICHARDSON, in the Fauna Boreali-Americana. It is generally
more confined to the interior of the forests, especially during the time of its
breeding, than the Hairy Woodpecker, although in winter I have found it quite as
easily approached. In autumn it frequently occurs in the corn-fields, where it
takes its share of the grain, in common with the Hairy, the Downy, and other
Woodpeckers. It is a lively and active bird, fond of rolling its tappings
against the decayed top-branches of trees, often launching forth after passing
insects, and feeding during winter on all such berries as it can procure. Its
flight is strong and better sustained than that of the Yellow-bellied or Hairy
Woodpeckers, and, like the Golden-winged species, it not unfrequently alights
across the smaller branches of the trees, a habit which, I assure you, is
oftener exhibited than has been supposed, by all our species of this interesting
tribe of birds.
I never found its nest in Louisiana or South Carolina; but it is not
uncommon to meet with it in Kentucky; and from Maryland to Nova Scotia these
birds breed in all convenient places, usually more in the woods than out of
them, although I have found their nests in orchards in Pennsylvania, generally
not far from the junction of a branch with the trunk. The hole is bored in the
ordinary manner. The eggs are seldom more than four in number; they measure one
inch and half an eighth in length, three-fourths of an inch in breadth, are of
an elliptical form, smooth, pure white, and translucent. In so far as I have
been able to discover, this species produces only one brood in a season. The
young remain in or about the nest until able to fly well.
The difference which this species exhibits in the sound of its notes has
always been a matter of interest to me; they fall upon the ear as if the bird
were suffering from a severe catarrh, and yet may be heard at times at the
distance of a hundred yards. They resemble the syllable chow or chaw, quickly
repeated during its movements, sometimes singly, but more usually doubled.
It feeds on all sorts of insects and larvae which it can procure, and at
certain periods its flesh is strongly impregnated with the odour of its food.
When procured in any part of the woods that have been burnt, the feathers of its
lower parts are almost black, from the carbonaceous matter adhering to them; and
generally in winter, at least in the Floridas, I have found its plumage more
soiled than in summer. I have represented a male and a female, in their perfect
RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER, Picus carolinus, Wils. Amer. Orn., vol. i. p. 113.
PICUS CAROLINUS, Bonap. Syn., p. 45.
RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER, Nutt. Man., vol. i. p. 572.
RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER, Picus carolinus, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. v. p. 169.
Male, 7 3/4, 15 3/4. Female, 8, 14 1/2.
Breeds from Kentucky in the West, and from Maryland to Nova Scotia and
Canada. Abundant in winter in all the Southern States, from Carolina to Texas,
and especially in the Floridas.
Bill about the length of the head, nearly straight, being very slightly
decurved or arched, strong, angular, compressed toward the tip, which is
truncate and cuneate. Upper mandible with the dorsal line somewhat arched, the
ridge very narrow, the sides sloping but convex, the lateral angle slight, near
the ridge, the edges sharp, direct, overlapping. Lower mandible with the angle
short and rather narrow, the crural outline concave, the dorsal line ascending
and straight, the sides ascending and convex, the edges sharp and inflected, the
tip narrow. Nostrils oblong, basal, concealed by the feathers, and placed about
half-way between the ridge and the edge.
Head of moderate size, ovate; neck rather short; body full. Feet very
short; tarsus very short, feathered anteriorly one-third down, in the rest of
its extent covered with a few large scutella, compressed, with a series of small
scutella internally behind; toes four; first toe small, fourth a little shorter
than third, second and third united at the base; all scutellate above; claws
large, much curved, compressed, laterally grooved, very acute.
Plumage full, soft, and blended. A tuft of reversed stiffish feathers on
each side of the base of the upper mandible, concealing the nostrils; the
feathers in the angle of the lower mandible also stiffish. Wings rather long;
the first quill very small, being only an inch and four-twelfths long, six and a
half twelfths shorter than the third, which is two-twelfths shorter than the
fourth, the latter the longest, the fifth almost equal; secondaries rounded, and
slightly emarginate. Tail of moderate length, cuneate, of twelve, feathers, of
which the lateral, which are rounded and entire, are only an inch and a twelfth
long, the next also unworn, are ten and a half twelfths shorter than the middle,
which with those on each side have the tip slit, the shaft terminating abruptly.
Bill bluish-grey, dusky toward the end. Iris bright red. Feet dusky
bluish-grey, claws dark brown. The upper part of the head and the hind neck are
of a shining bright carmine; the back and scapulars transversely barred with
black and white; the rump and tail-coverts with the white predominating; the
smaller coverts, secondary coverts, and secondary quills, are also
brownish-black, barred with white; the primary coverts unspotted; the primary
quills patched or spotted with white at the base; the inner with several spots
on their inner web, and all narrowly margined externally and tipped with white.
The middle tail-feathers are black, with an oblique band of white occupying part
of the outer web, and the greater portion of the inner, which is barred or
spotted with black; the next three on each side are black, slightly tipped with
white; the next also black, with seven external and three internal white
indentations; the outer feathers black, tipped with white, but sometimes barred.
The sides of the head and the lower parts are pale grey, the former and the chin
yellowish and tinged with red, of which latter there is a shade over the breast,
and a brighter tint on the abdomen; the axillar feathers dusky, barred with
white, the lower tail-coverts yellowish-white, with a central dusky streak or
Length to end of tail 9 1/4 inches, to end of wings 7 3/4, to end of claws
8 1/8; extent of wings 15 3/4; bill along the ridge 1 (1 1/4)/12, along the edge
of lower mandible 1 (4 1/2)/12; wing from flexure 5 1/4; tail 3 7/12; tarsus
(9 1/2)/12; first toe 4/12, its claw (3 1/2)/12; second toe (6 1/2)/12, its claw
5/12; third toe 9/12, its claw 6/12; fourth toe 8/12, its claw (5 1/2)/12.
Weight 2 1/2 oz.
The female is somewhat inferior to the male in size, and differs in colour
only in having the upper part of the head ash-grey, the feathers at the base of
the upper mandible of a dull reddish-orange, the lower parts less tinged with
Length to end of tail 8 inches, to end of wings 7 1/4, to end of claws 8;
extent of wings 14 1/2. Weight 2 1/2 oz.
In a specimen preserved in spirits, the roof of the mouth is nearly flat,
with a median prominent line; the posterior aperture of the nares linear, 9
twelfths long, and margined with papillae. The tongue is 2 inches long, nearly
cylindrical for 1 1/2 inches, its terminal part tapering, slender, covered with
a horny sheath, on each of the edges of which are 12 recurved acute bristles.
The horns of the hyoid bone curve over the occiput, meet in the median line of
the head, and reach as far forward as the vicinity of the right nostril, being,
as usual, accompanied in their whole length by a muscle attached to the lower
jaw. The oesophagus is 3 1/4 inches long, its average diameter 5 twelfths. The
stomach is muscular, roundish, 10 twelfths long, and of the same breadth, its
tendons circular and 1/4 inch in diameter. Its contents are remains of insects
and a large quantity of maize. The epithelium is tough, longitudinally rugous,
and of a reddish-brown colour. The intestine is 11 3/4 inches long, its average
diameter 3 1/2 twelfths. The rectum, which is 4 twelfths in width, gradually
enlarges to the cloaca, which is of an oblong form, with a diameter of half an
inch. No coeca.
The trachea is 2 1/2 inches long, nearly of uniform diameter, only varying
from 1 1/2 twelfths to 1 twelfth, a little flattened, its rings about 60. The
bronchi are slender, of moderate length, with about 15 half rings. The lateral
muscles, which are moderately strong, terminate on the last ring of the trachea,
from which also come off the sterno-tracheal muscles; there are no inferior