14-B-2017 Red-headed Woodpecker

STATUS
Accepted
DATE VOTING COMPLETED
1ST ROUND
7-0
HOW MANY OBSERVED?
1 adult
DATE SIGHTING OCCURRED
DATE REPORT PREPARED
REPORTER
Wendy McCrady
OTHER OBSERVERS
Seen when birding alone. Several other birders looked for it in the following week with no success. In a verbal conversation with a man spending a lot of time at this location about one week later, he reported that he had spotted the bird twice in this area since the initial report. Unknown whether he is a birder but he was aware of the initial report of bird and stated he was familiar with the species from living in Maryland. He stated he was surprised to see it here, especially after checking the range map for Red-headed Woodpeckers. This indicates he has at least some familiarity with birds. Did not get his name.
LOCALITY OF OBSERVATION
Challis Bridge BLM Day Use Area (This is located just off Hwy 93 south of the intersection with Hwy 75.) Custer County
HABITAT WHERE THE BIRD WAS OBSERVED
Riparian strip along the Salmon River. Cottonwood trees with some bushes and vegetation below.
SIGHTING DURATION, CONDITIONS, and EQUIPMENT USED
The bird flew across a broad opening (parking area) between the trees into the upper portion of several cottonwoods. I briefly glimpsed it again as it slipped behind a trunk, saw movement as it flew, but could not relocate it. Disruptive people arrived at the location shortly after and I left.

Weather was sunny with no wind. Did not note temperature but it was during a warm spell so probably low-mid 70s.

Sighting was at about 1:15 pm on a sunny day. Good overhead light. I was facing north so the sun was slightly behind me as well. No sun glare. 8 x 42 Leica binoculars. Bird was flying about 25 feet from the ground and its flight path was about 15 feet in front of me. Excellent, unobstructed view of underside and side of woodpecker until it went into the trees. No views of the bird from above.
DID YOU TAKE NOTES?
Yes, during the observation
DID YOU CONSULT A FIELD GUIDE OR OTHER REFERENCE WORK?
Yes, later the same day
WHICH GUIDE(S) OR REFERENCE(S): DID YOU CONSULT?
Audubon Field Guide to NA Birds app on my phone
Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America, 2nd ed., David Allen Sibley, 2016
allaboutbirds.org
e-Bird website: photos, reports in Idaho
Idahobirds.net: previous rare bird reports
DESCRIPTION OF THE BIRD(s)
This woodpecker was medium-sized, similar size as a Hairy Woodpecker. Based on size comparison, determined to be just over 9". In flight, three colors - white, red, black - stood out in a bold pattern. Each color was solid with no streaks, smudges, or hints of other color. The breast and belly were clean, bright white. Solid red covered the head and throat like a hood. The wings were divided into half white and half black. The white on the underside of the bird extended halfway out on the wings while the outer portion of the wings were black.
BEHAVIOR OF THE BIRD(s)
The bird was only seen in flight going into the top third of leafed-out cottonwoods where it disappeared. The flight style seemed to be less undulating than most woodpeckers but unlike that of a Lewis's Woodpecker. No feeding, preening, or interactions with other birds observed.
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU POSITIVELY IDENTIFY THE BIRD, AND WHAT CLINCHED THE IDENTIFICATION FOR YOU?
I immediately recognized that this was a Red-headed Woodpecker due to the bold pattern of solid colors. Checking field guides confirmed this, even though the bird was out of its normal range. There are previous records in Idaho.
HOW DID YOU ELIMINATE SIMILAR SPECIES? WHAT WERE THEY?
This woodpecker's color pattern is so distinct that there are no similar species.

Two other woodpecker species were present: Red-naped Sapsucker and Northern Flicker. The size of this woodpecker was larger than the sapsucker and smaller than the flicker. It was the same size as a Hairy Woodpecker, which also has a white breast and belly. However, unlike the Hairy Woodpecker, the underneath of this woodpecker's wings were white near the body (secondary flight feathers & secondary underwing coverts) and black on the outer half (primary flight feather & primary underwing coverts). The entire head was red, which also eliminates any other possible woodpecker. It was too small to be a Pileated Woodpecker, did not have a crest, the underside was white rather than black, and the wings were white near the body with black near the tips rather than white on the underwing coverts with black on the primary and secondary flight feathers.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THIS (AND SIMILAR) SPECIES?
I saw my first Red-headed Woodpecker in New Mexico some years ago and then observed them numerous times during two weeks spent in Texas last September.
DESCRIBE YOUR GENERAL BIRDING EXPERIENCE
have been birding for almost 40 years and would rate myself as good. I take my time birding and double-check IDs against field guides and eBird reports for unusual sightings. My past work and volunteer experience has included birding, mostly in southeastern Arizona.
WERE PHOTO(S), VIDEO, AND/OR AUDIO OBTAINED FROM THIS SIGHTING?
None

FIRST ROUND VOTING:

Cliff Weisse
Accept

Though the observation was brief the description is convincing.

Jay Carlisle
Accept

Key field marks well described

Shirley Sturts
Accept

A quick view of a the woodpecker in flight could make for a questionable identification. However, the field marks noted are convincing.

Darren Clark
Accept

Description eliminates similar species. Time of year generally fits the pattern of other Idaho records.

Dave Trochlell
Accept

The report was convincing to me. I can't think of another bird that has the described characteristics.

Doug Ward
Accept

Although the description in the report is clumsy, its tough to mess up this identification. Sufficient discussion of pattern and coloration, in addition to relative size, and familiarity with the family, to accept.

Carl Lundblad
Accept

Despite the brief duration of the sighting, the observer is familiar with this and other candidate species and provides a convincing description that effectively eliminates alternatives. No other species should show the combination of marks described, and plumage abnormalities on another species are unlikely to account for them. The habitat sounds ideal for this species, this region of Idaho has hosted the state's previous records, and late May - June seems to be good timing for these, regionally. The area is not far from the regular range of this species, and it would require only a small navigational error for one to arrive in Idaho during late May.