Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Why it is not a Red-headed Woodpecker

NOTE: The image in question is now know to be a forgery.

I also added this text to my previous posting about Steve Sheridan's Mystery Woodpecker. You should also read my post on how a bird's neck works if you still think that a "stretched" neck can somehow suck the black mantle up into the neck, resulting in a black neck rather than a red one.

Many people online are trying to make this bird into a Red-headed Woodpecker, in spite of the fact that this is a completely untenable ID. Even if accurate distance and size measurements confirm the bird's small size, I'm not sure that is the route to use to explain the mystery bird. The neck on a Red-headed Woodpecker is red, not black. There is no black or white on the neck at all to get stretched and distorted in to a white stripe on black background. The red goes down, uninterrupted, to the base of the nape and on to the upper breast. Those "white straps" on the shoulders are breast feathers protruding from under the folded wing. They will not stretch into a neck stripe no matter how hard you pull. Same with the black on the back; that is the bird's mantle and you can't stretch that into a neck either. Even if the white stripe is something other than plumage on the mystery bird, the neck is still quite plainly black, not red. So ignore the size and shape issues, stretch a Red-headed's neck until just before it snaps, and you still won't get a black neck. The mystery bird is not a Red-headed Woodpecker.


At 1:58 PM, Blogger cyberthrush said...

Peace Bill ;-) I'll try this one more time, and again, it's not written in stone for me that this is RHWO, but yes I find it very TENABLE:

You ARE NOT seeing the neck of this bird. The back faces us, probably angled slightly to the right (but it could even be to the left) The belly doesn't show. The bird's head is stretched up, then turned (180 almost) and then downward into the feathers being preened -- you are seeing the red head and face of the bird facing you -- because the head is bent down the neck is obscured (just as your neck is obscured if you hang your head down) -- it is possible some of that lower red is actually a small part of the neck from the side, but the black is NOT neck; it is the upper part of the back stretched upward with the stretching of the head. The white "strap" is mostly white/light beak, and then right where it curves is where white from the 'armpit' is showing through preened feathers.
I hope this makes it clearer, though I fear it does not.

At 2:25 PM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

Hi Cy,

I understand your interpretation; I just disagree with it. Birds mantles and breasts don't stretch. Everything on that bird above the visible shoulder is neck, not stretched back. The red on a redheaded should begin right above the shoulder; in fact it begins right at the narrow point of the upper neck, which is where the red crest should begin if it was a Pileated looking away and up, or an Ivorybill looking directly away. Look at google-searched images of Red-headeds, or dark-mantled gulls for that matter, or any bird that has contrasting color between the nape and the mantle. You will see that the line betwen nape and mantle stays pretty firmly fixed as the head and neck stretch, contract, and pivot. You never get mantle color being stretched upwards. It's simply a function of anatomy and how birds "stretch" their necks. The neck does not actually stretch. On Herons or hummingbirds, it says the same length. What it does, is fold. So when the neck is fully extended all it does is spread the feathers out; it is not drastically pulling on the skin, nor would it apply any tension at all to the back skin holding the mantle feathers. These are not rubber balloons. If you actually stretch a birds neck by any significant amount, you kill it. Ask any chicken farmer.


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