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The Red-cockaded Woodpecker visits Illinois!

This normally sedentary woodpecker lives in the pine forests of the southeastern United States. Thus, it was shocking when Alan Stokie and friends stumbled upon this female bird on August 19th, 2000 in an oak woodland at Illinois Beach State Park (far northeastern Illinois)!

Further searches that day and the next were unfruitful in relocating this surprising vagrant. However, I knew there was habitat mirroring what this woodpecker would normally live in just about a half mile to the southeast of its original location. On the evening of August 24th, I trudged out to what is called the 'South Pines' at Illinois Beach and relocated the bird four different times within an hour. Over the next four months, hundreds of birders from around the country made the trip attempting to view this out-of-range species.

(Note photo on left where the woodpecker has actually turned its head 180 degrees in an attempt to get a better view of what's under the bark... Amazing!)

White baring goes across the back of this bird (ie. ladder-backed), eliminating local species such as Hairy and Downy Woodpecker. No bands were on this bird, speculating that it came from further south than the Kentucky population that was still present at that time. December arrived in the Chicago-area along with alltime record breaking cold and snowfall. This bird was not located in late December leading to speculation that the dire weather finally did what none of the hundreds of migrating raptors could do - kill off this stranger from the south. Interestingly, one Illinois bird author predicted back in the 1880's this species might show up someday in Illinois. He was right, but off by about 120 years!

  All Sunshine Photography photos by Eric Walters and are copyrighted.
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