I received an e-mail from a reader asking “what bird is this?”, and with his question he attached a photo. What a great photo it is, and quite an unusual bird – a Painted Redstart! Chuck, who is the e-mailer, and his wife have had their cabin near Munds Canyon since 2001, and just recently this Painted Restart captured their attention.
As you can tell from Chuck’s photo, this bird is a flashy red, white, and black. It is the only member of its genus that appears regularly in the Americas. Its relatives are actually known as “whitestarts” and most members of its genus, of which there are 12, are found in Central and South America. But for a non-scientific person like me, I just know that this bird is a real find. It was a “lifer” for me in July 2012, when I watched one darting through the forest for an entire weekend from the back deck of our home. We live on the opposite side of Munds Canyon from Chuck, so perhaps it is the same bird or an offspring.
The Painted Restart flits energetically from tree to tree in search of insects. When it flits, you can see the flash of its white wing parts and outer tail feathers. Painted Restarts prefer pine or pine-oak woods, oak canyons, and pinyon- and juniper-covered high slopes. They build their nests on the ground, usually on a slope in a canyon or creek bank in a concealed place close to a large clump of grass or protruding rock or tree stump. Given that, Munds Canyon seems like a logical place for breeding Painted Restarts, and I’m grateful to Chuck for sending his observation and his wonderful photo.
While the Painted Restart is not seen that often by most of us, the other black, white, and red bird I have in mind – the Acorn Woodpecker – is much more common and a frequent visitor to our feeders. The Acorn Woodpecker is a resident woodpecker in Munds Park. For some reason I can only guess at, Acorn Woodpeckers are frequenting my bird feeder much more than in past years. Perhaps it was the milder winter, with less snow and more birds making it through the winter, or perhaps the new bird seed mixture I have appeals more to them. The new combination I’m using has black oil sunflower seeds, white millet, wheat, dried cherries, peanuts, safflower seeds, and raisins. Last year I only placed sunflower seeds in that feeder, and while I still get the usual birds at that feeder, now the Acorn Woodpeckers are also really frequenting it.
Acorn Woodpeckers have a very distinctive face – sometimes called a “clown face”. I just learned that the female has a black patch between the red crown and its white forehead, so now I am going to pay more attention and try to identify the males and females separately. Otherwise the sexes of this species are very similar. These woodpeckers stay in groups, and they store nuts so tightly in individually drilled holes that even squirrels cannot pry the nuts out.