Chasing Redheads in the Forest: Brief Encounters with a Magellanic Woodpecker

Male Magellanic woodpecker

Male Magellanic woodpecker

Another couple of shots for my small (but growing!) bird shot collection – this is a Magellanic Woodpecker caught in the act of drumming and pecking in Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park near El Chalten. They’re loud and they’re big.

At 36 to 45 centimeters (14 to 18 inches) long, Campephilus magellanicus is the largest woodpecker in the Americas and found only in Patagonian forests of southern Argentina and Chile. The male, at top, has a head of fiery red with a short crest, sort of like a short raging mohawk. The female, below, has a black head with a curly crest and a red patch at the base of its beak.  They’re great climbers, thanks to their curved claws and rigid feathers in their tails. The distinctive white pattern on their back is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. :)

I was thrilled to come across them twice on this particular hike, both on the ascent and descent to and from Laguna Capri and Poincenot. They’re not dreadfully shy so you could get pretty close.

From a technical standpoint, I’m not thrilled at all about either one of these shots. It was getting late and much of the light was gone for the shot of the male, while my setting were way off when I hurried to get a snap of the female. It’s unlikely that I’ll come across these again, so I decided to post them. If you’re curious for more, check out a nice collection of photos and videos on the The Internet Bird Collection.

Female Magellanic woodpecker

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  1. ShaZAYAM! Seeing that makes me grateful for eyes that can see red! You are doing so well, balancing responsible journalism while wearing a naturalist’s shoes!

  2. To actually have captures of your own – of any quality – makes them special because these creatures were part of the environment you are exploring – not the only things you’re shooting! I’d be over the moon to have captured either :)

    • Oh, I’m thrilled to have gotten them. Just not that happy with how they look. Birding with my camera is teaching me a kind of patience I never really tried to experience prior to this trip.

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