Black-backed Woodpecker


On January 7th Paul Peterson discovered a Black-backed Woodpecker in the Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston. On my 5th time looking for it (long story) I was finally able to secure a view and some photographs. Hundreds of local birders have been flocking to see this bird as it is a first record for Boston and one of about 12+ records for the state. This species is a northern resident, with the closest place to reliably view one in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Even in its normal range this bird is often very hard to see so a bird in Boston is quite the spectacle.  A beautiful large woodpecker (about the size of a Hairy Woodpecker), the male Black-backed is a striking bird with a glossy black head and back, a white malar (mustache) stripe, and a white belly with thin black barring. Top this off with a bright yellow cap and you get a very handsome bird. The species can be very sedentary, chiseling away the bark on dead pines until the tree is swathed with large bare patches. This is exactly what the Forest Hills bird has been doing. When Paul discovered it, there were already bare patches on many trees in the cemetery, compelling many birders to wonder how long the woodpecker had already been in the area. 


(Edit: This bird ended up sticking around for quite a while and I was fortunate enough to observe it on four separate occasions.. This photo is from April 6.)

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Avian Obsession © 2020 Evan Lipton

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