The Red-bellied Woodpecker is a bird that did not occur in greater Minnesota until recently. They have been expanding their range northward ever since the early 1960s.
- Until 1960 the Red-bellied Woodpecker was regular in only one county in Minnesota. The far most southeastern county, Houston, was the only place they could be found.
- By 1975 they had expanded their range to just north of the Twin Cities.
- In 1995 they were found south of Duluth from Carlton County over to Crow Wing County.
- By the year 2000 they could be found at 46 – 47 degrees north latitude. That latitude would put you at the Canadian border.
Here in Crane Lake, the Red-bellied Woodpecker has been seen for the first time, this past year 2016.
Like the Northern Cardinal, the Red-bellied Woodpecker is an “urban generalist” and maybe that could explain the two species’ northward range expansion. They need to be around settlements with the open spaces and mixed woods that result from urbanization. We don’t know how much recreational bird feeding has aided the expansion.
Generally, the two species noted above prefer hardwood forests rather than the boreal forest type that surrounds the Crane Lake area. Boreal forests mainly contain conifer trees like pine, spruce and tamarack, although aspen and birch also occur. We had a Cardinal winter over at Crane Lake a few seasons ago, but he left in the spring. He probably didn’t find a mate and decided to move on. It will be interesting to see if our Red-bellied Woodpecker stays around next summer. This bird, too, is a male.