An Eagle Pair’s Love Story

The last of my four Eagle posts in a row, this shares the bonding and mating of a pair of Bald Eagles just over two weeks ago.  My encounter was beyond incredible for me!  I clicked away from my car, taking over 100 photos.

I’ve tried to keep it simple with as few photos as possible yet still share the entire love story.

Ready? 😉

I happened upon a lone Bald Eagle perched on an Osprey platform and stopped to take what I thought would be a couple photos.

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Bald Eagle (male)

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I heard another Bald Eagle from behind the platform and spotted a female on the ground.  She was calling to her mate and watching him.

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Bald Eagle (female)

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The male turned and looked down at her, returning a very excited call.

The female took flight, circled past me, and landed on the platform.

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Bald Eagle (female) heading to the platform

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Female lands on the platform to an excited male

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They acknowledge each other, as the male sidled towards her

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The male patiently awaited the female’s okay

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The female finally looked at her partner, giving him the signal, and he quickly moved onto her.  I shot 22 incredible photos, here’s five of the series.

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My favorite shot!

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Just as quick as the mating started, it was over.  But the bonding session wasn’t just yet.

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While the female looked around, the male sat humbled, watching her intently; did he please her?

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She finally gave her partner a direct look and he perked up

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Shiver Me Timbers!

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The Mrs. is unimpressed

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The female began preening herself.  Poor fella, he couldn’t catch a break.

The male decided to do one more bonding gesture.

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As she preened, the male took flight

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The female noticed him then, she just missed getting swiped by accident!

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The male proceeded to dive down to the ground

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In flight, the male grabbed a clump of grass and flew off

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I watched where he headed.  I then turned back to the female who was also watching her partner fly off.  If only he knew!

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The female turns and watched her partner carry-off nesting material

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When he disappeared, the female’s interest went back to looking around.  I took a couple more quick shots and prepared to pull away.

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Bald Eagle (female)

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I am aware of a nearby failed eagle’s nest for the past couple years, and that was the exact direction the male flew with the clump of grass.  Hmmmmm…..

I left the female and drove to a spot where I knew I could get my binoculars on the nest from the road through the trees.  Guess who I found arranging grass and branches on the nest?!!

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Male Bald Eagle on nest

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The male worked on the nest, then would glance over his shoulder to where he left his partner at the platform.  He had hoped to coax her there.

For sure, he had coaxed me!  Ha!

If you recall two posts ago of the perched eagles, I shared a female with a dark, vertical marking on her left iris.

In this mating photo shoot, I was able to easily identify this as the same female.  Now that I am looking for her at the refuge and in my eagle photos, it just seems appropriate to name her Iris.  😊

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Iris
Bald Eagle (female)

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Remember this shot of Iris in the rain I shared two posts back  🙂

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I hope you enjoyed this love story of Iris and her partner!

An update from a week ago, I saw the male on the nest again while Iris was feeding on a meal nearby.

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Iris finishing a meal week ago

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Come on, Iris, we are rooting for you!

(Iris and her mate reside at Eastern Neck NWR, Rock Hall, Maryland)

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Eagles at Play

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Continuing with another eagle post!  This one is sharing a pair of immature Bald Eagles playing in the sky.  What fun to watch them chase each other, practicing their maneuvers and tactics!

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Going through the photos and using the comparison chart I previously compared, my guess one is 1-2 years old, the other at least 3 years old.  You can see their beaks and heads are noticeably different.

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Don’t you just love their expressions!

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(Photos taken at Chesapeake Farms wildlife auto tour)

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Eagles Perched in Trees

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My previous post shared a series of Eagles in flight.  Here’s my next Eagle gallery sharing them perched in trees, taking in the big views.  With the bare winter branches, it makes it so much easier to find them!

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Bald Eagle (adult)

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Bald Eagles (adult and immature)

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Bald Eagle (immature)

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From a distance and even perched singularly, Bald Eagles can be difficult to differentiate between sexes.

But have a pair side by side, it becomes very easy, as the female is approximately one-third larger and 10-15 pounds heavier than the male.

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Bald Eagles (female in background, male in foreground)
St. Pauls Millpond

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Bald Eagles

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Bald Eagles (female at top, male below)

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Bald Eagle (adult)

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Bald Eagle (immature)

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Bald Eagle (adult)

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Bald Eagle (adult)

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Bald Eagle (immature)

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Bald Eagle (adult)

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Bald Eagle (adult female) in the rain

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Who knew an eagle perched in the rain was so pretty?!!

Next is another composition of her, showing she has a long vertical iris on her left eye.

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Bald Eagle (adult female) in the rain

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So how am I able to identify this wet eagle as a female since it’s just one eagle perched?  I have a series of photos of her with her partner on another recent day and noticed the odd iris.

I now always look for her in my photos.  Here’s a closer look at her left eye’s iris.

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Close-up of the female’s different iris

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Here she is again on the left with her mate looking at her

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As you can see, I am so fortunate right now with so many eagle photo ops, I can’t help myself with taking yet another eagle shot, as they are one of my favorite birds.

All photos above were taken at Eastern Neck NWR except for the photos of the first pair of Eagles which I noted were from St Pauls Millpond.

If you enjoy Bald Eagles, there’s two more post galleries to come.  Next is eagle aerial play!  Fun fun!

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Eagles in Flight

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This post is two-fold fun!  I get to share a lot of Eagles in flight and you get to compare Eagles in a few stages of plumage.

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Bald Eagle (adult)

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Eagles are born dark brown with a dark beak and begin a widely-varied array of plumage of white-mottling as they mature each year.

They do not reach adulthood with their white head, white tail, and dark brown body profile until they are about five years old.

Here is a chart that I find helpful with identifying how old an Eagle might be if you’re lucky to see a close-up view of the head.

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Eagle Plumage Stages

Eagle Plumage Stages

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Bald Eagle (immature)

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Bald Eagle (adult)

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Bald Eagle (immature)

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Eagle (adult)

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Bald Eagle (immature)

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Bald Eagle (immature)

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Bald Eagle (adult)

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Were you able to distinguish the different ages the immatures might have been?  Sometimes it can still be difficult because no two will look alike in the same stage.

The next two photos is of an immature Golden Eagle that I luckily spotted again just a few miles from my home recently.  Note the differences from it to the immature Bald Eagle.  The Golden Eagle has a golden nape, white patches at the base of the primary feathers, and dark brown wide band tail tip.

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Golden Eagle (immature)

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Golden Eagle (immature)

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Back to the Bald Eagle with a final three-photo series of a full-frame fly-by!  It was exciting in person!

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Female Bald Eagle Fly-by

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Female Bald Eagle Fly-by

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Female Bald Eagle Fly-by

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More Bald Eagle galleries coming, next perched in trees….

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1-2-3 Medium Bird Jubilee – #14

Here’s another post to add to my series of medium-sized birds that I’ve encountered recently.  Maybe one will be one of your favorite birds.  🙂

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Red-winged Blackbird (male)
Length 6.7-9.1 inches (17-23 cm)
Weight 1.1-2.7 oz (32-77 g)
Wingspan 12.2-15.8 inches (31-40 cm)

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Blue Jay
Length 9.8-11.8 inches (25-30 cm)
Weight 2.5-3.5 oz (70-100 g)
Wingspan 13.4-16.9 inches (34-43 cm)

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Northern Mockingbird
Length 8.3-10.2 inches (21-26 cm)
Weight 1.6-2.0 oz (45-58 g)
Wingspan 12.2-13.8 inches (31-35 cm)

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Belted Kingfisher (female)
Length 11.0-13.8 inches (28-35 cm)
Weight 4.9-6.0 oz (140-170 g)
Wingspan 18.9-22.8 inches (48-58 cm)

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                                Blue Jays                                                  Red-bellied Woodpecker (male)                  
          Length 9.8-11.8 inches (25-30 cm)                               Length 9.4 inches (24 cm)
              Weight 2.5-3.5 oz (70-100 g)                                    Weight 2.0-3.2 oz (56-91 g)
      Wingspan 13.4-16.9 inches (34-43 cm)                    Wingspan 13.0-16.5 inches (33-42 cm)

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Northern Cardinal (male)
Length 8.3-9.1 inches (21-23 cm)
Weight 1.5-1.7 oz (42-48 g)
Wingspan 9.8-12.2 inches (25-31 cm)

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Northern Cardinal (female)
Length 8.3-9.1 inches (21-23 cm)
Weight 1.5-1.7 oz (42-48 g)
Wingspan 9.8-12.2 inches (25-31 cm)

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Coming In For A Landing

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Like the rest of the country, we’ve experienced some drastic weather patterns recently, where we might experience a light fog on our cold mornings.

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Bald Eagle preparing to land with its mate on an old hunter’s duck blind
Tundra Swans dot the waters behind
Chesapeake Bay Bridge in the background behind the northern tip of Kent Island
Photographed from Eastern Neck NWR entrance causeway

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Sunrise at Bogles Wharf

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Sunrise at Bogles Wharf – January 4, 2023
Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge

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“The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round.”   – John Muir

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Tundra Swans at Sunrise

Numbers have increased in the past month on the arctic Tundra Swans wintering around the Chesapeake Bay.  They have started to come in closer to the shorelines at Eastern Neck NWR, yay!

I encountered this small group at sunrise this past Wednesday alongside the road at the refuge, photographed from my car window.  What a beautiful set-up, I took over 60 photos!

I’ll spare you with three of my favorites. 😉

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Tundra Swans

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Tundra Swans

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Tundra Swans
(there’s got to be a great caption on the center pair in this scene!)

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Banded Peregrine Falcon Update

I promised an update if I gained any information after reporting the banded Peregrine Falcon I encountered at Bogles Wharf, Eastern Neck NWR, in Rock Hall, Maryland, back in November 2022 (previous post here with all photos).

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Peregrine Falcon (female)

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I received an email response with the below certificate on January 10, 2023.  The falcon was a female banded May 2022 in Westborough, Massachusetts, before she fledged.  As a straight shot, she was about 375 miles from her birth home.  Check out her banding data below!

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donna.wadsley@gmail.com

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“See my bands?”

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She was gorgeous, all fluffed-up in the chilly wind that day.  I loved when she changed her stance to alert, showing the powerful falcon she is growing to be.

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Don’t mess with this fierce gal!

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Do any of you Massachusetts friends and followers live near our gal’s original location??  I’d love to know!

For further information on reporting banded birds you may encounter, please read my email’s following excerpt.  And please do not hesitate to report any banded bird info and photos.  They do not necessarily need all the data on the bands, sometimes colors and a few number/letters still works miracles in identifying!

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The North American Bird Banding Program

Bird banding is important for studying the movement, survival and behavior of birds. About 60 million birds representing hundreds of species have been banded in North America since 1904. About 4 million bands have been recovered and reported.

Data from banded birds are used in monitoring populations, setting hunting regulations, restoring endangered species, studying effects of environmental contaminants, and addressing such issues as Avian Influenza, bird hazards at airports, and crop depredations. Results from banding studies support national and international bird conservation programs such as Partners in Flight, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, and Wetlands for the Americas.

The North American Bird Banding Program is under the general direction of the U.S. Geological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Cooperators include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mexico’s National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity and Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources; other federal, state and provincial conservation agencies; universities; amateur ornithologists; bird observatories; nature centers; nongovernmental organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and the National Audubon Society; environmental consulting firms and other private sector businesses. However, the most important partner in this cooperative venture is you, the person who voluntarily reported a recovered band. Thank you for your help.

U.S. Geological Survey
Canadian Wildlife Service

Please Report Bands at www.reportband.gov

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Knock Knock Knock on Wood

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In the silence of the woods, you suddenly hear the sound of drilling or hammering fill the air.  It’s a good chance you’re hearing a woodpecker busy at work.

Maryland has seven species of woodpeckers.  And right now, they are all very active, busy stashing food in preparation for any future wintry days when pickings may be scarce.

I’ll share them in size order, starting with Maryland’s smallest, the adorable Downy Woodpecker.

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Downy Woodpecker (male, ID’d by red spot on nape)
Length 5.5-6.7 inches (14-17 cm)

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Downy Woodpecker (male)

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Downy male chasing another male away from his gal

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Downy Woodpecker pair

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Very close in looks to the Downy but larger in length is the Hairy Woodpecker.  Its additional ID differences to the Downy is the much larger-looking beak-to-head ratio and lacks the spots along the outer tail feathers.

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Hairy Woodpecker (male, ID’d by red spot on nape)
Length 7.1-10.2 inches (18-26 cm)

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Hairy Woodpecker (male)

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Close in size to the Hairy is the next woodpecker, the beautiful Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

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Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (female, she lacks the red throat)
Length 7.1-8.7 inches (18-22 cm)

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Almost the same size to the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the next woodpecker, the striking Red-headed Woodpecker.

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Red-headed Woodpecker (both sexes look identical)
Length 7.5-9.1 inches (19-23 cm)

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The next woodpecker also has a lot of red on its head, the Red-bellied Woodpecker.

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Red-bellied Woodpecker (male, ID’d by red crown)
Length 9.4 inches (24 cm)

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Red-bellied Woodpecker (male – see its tongue?)

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Red-bellied Woodpecker (female – lacks red crown, both have red nape)

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Red-bellied Woodpecker (male)

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Red-bellied Woodpecker (male)

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Larger than the Red-bellied Woodpecker and just as pretty, the Northern Flicker.  Our eastern version is the yellow-shafted tail; the western version is red-shafted.

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Northern Flicker (female, ID’d by lack of black mustache)
Length 11.0-12.2 inches (28-31 cm)

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Northern Flicker (female)

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Finally, the last of the seven and the largest of them all, the Pileated Woodpecker.

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Pileated Woodpecker (male, ID’d by red stripe on cheek)
Length 15.8-19.3 inches (40-49 cm)

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Pileated Woodpecker (male)

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I hope you enjoyed this comparison post of Maryland’s seven woodpeckers.  I am fortunate to have all seven local to me.  In fact, most of these photos were taken in my backyard.

Quite interesting, there are a total of 23 woodpecker species in the United States!

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