Saturday, June 6, 2009
While birding at Lake Holbrook, north of La Junta, Co, a few days ago, I was delighted to find four Red-headed Woodpeckers in a small grove of trees across the road from lake. I am always happy to find these woodpeckers as they are declining in a number of areas.
These woodpeckers were calling and tapping repeatedly, chasing each other and mating. On several occasions I observed a pair copulating and I was able to photo-document one of these. Starting with the second one, these pics chronologically document this copulation as it occurred.
The 7th pic shows this pair apparently copulating while facing opposite from the other pics. What I observed was the apparent male hop off the female and briefly perch facing the same direction as shown in pic #6. That bird then hopped onto the branch to it's right facing the to the right and the other woodpecker mounted him, which is shown in this 7th pic. According to Birds of North America (BNA) online, Red-headed Woodpeckers engage in "reverse mounting"--"female may hop or flutter on back of male in reverse mounting."
The mounting shown in the pics #1-5 lasted approximately 10 seconds while the mounting shown in pic #7 lasted on 1-2 seconds. I think it is more likely that the first mounting involved the male engaged in copulation because BNA states that full copulation lasts about 7 seconds and it is described as the "male falling to the left in establishing contact with female" which appears to be shown in pic #5. BNA also describes full copulation as "often accompanied by Wing-Fluttering by male" and wing-fluttering occurred during the first mounting episode (pics #1-5).
It seems likely that the second mounting, with the birds facing to the right, was the female engaged in "reverse mounting" as it was very brief, without wing-fluttering and without indication that the bird on top "falling to the left" as noted above.
BNA further states that these woodpeckers often copulate "after a territorial fight with an intruder." It seems likely that this is what I observed when this pair was engaged in chasing with the other 2 Red-headed Woodpeckers, possibly a second pair trying to lay claim to the same territory.
These pics can be enlarged for close-up viewing by double clicking on them but be aware they are not as sharp as I would like. All of these pics were taken handheld and my 400 mm lens does not have image stabilization. These birds were no closer than 50 feet away, and some much further, which magnifies any camera shake. SeEtta