Red-bellied Woodpecker eyeing his prey

A Red-bellied Predator

The persistent pounding caught my eye.

A woodpecker appeared to be pecking for prey. Red-bellied woodpeckers have a varied diet. Cornell’s Birds of the World says their main fare consists of fruits, nuts, insects, lizards, tree frogs, and the eggs and nestlings of small birds. But a woodpecker could take those foods in a single snatch. It seemed odd that the bird was taking so long to snag his prey.

Looking at my camera’s tiny screen, I couldn’t identify the woodpecker’s quarry. The bird flew off after some two minutes of work,  and I stopped filming. I didn’t give him another thought.  That is, until later when I downloaded the video.

My full-screen view revealed a horrifyingly fascinating sight.

See for yourself—first, the actual-speed video.

Here’s the end of that video, played at half speed.

Did you identify the woodpecker’s prey?

This still from the video should confirm your conclusion.

Red-bellied Woodpecker with his prey, a bat.
Red-bellied Woodpecker with his prey

The Cornell species account for the Red-bellied Woodpecker mentions small mammals as occasional prey. Even though this bird’s quarry was likely sleeping when the bird attacked, I still think his dinner choice was ambitious. A little batty, even.

Cornell has another term for what I saw. They describe this bird’s behavior as pugnacious.

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