Chasing a Redhead in the Forest: Up Close With a Magellanic Woodpecker
I finally got around to reworking these few shots of a few Magellanic Woodpeckers I spent a few minutes chasing at the edge of a forest after catching them 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,Magellanic Woodpeckers, or Campephilus magellanicus is the largest woodpecker in South America, one of the largest 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, pictured a few shots down, 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 patterns on their back is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in the wild.
I was thrilled to come across them twice on this particular hike, a day trip on the Fitz Roy Trail, both on the ascent and descent to and from Laguna Capri and Poincenot near the base of Fitz Roy, arguably the most recognized peak in the Andes. They’re not shy, allowing you to get fairly close. It was playful too, allowing me just enough time to nearly catch up before soaring to the next dry tree.
From a technical standpoint, I’m not terribly thrilled with most of the shots –most here are cropped fairly close. 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 ever come across these beautiful beasts again, so I decided to pad out this mini gallery.
Still Magellanic woodpecker-curious? Some related links for future reference or further exploration: