1. English and Scientific names: Ladder-backed Woodpecker (Picoides scalaris)

2. Number of individuals, sexes, ages, general plumage (e.g., 2 in alternate plumage):

adult (?) male

3. Locality: LOUISIANA: (parish)  Cameron____________________________________________

Specific Locality: _Lighthouse Rd. about 900’ NE of the light; 2400’ NE of Texas border (29 43 07 N 93 50 56 W) [moved about 500’ during observation]______________________________________________________

4. Date(s) when observed: 14 May 2011

5. Time(s) of day when observed: 2:40-2:55 p.m

6. Reporting observer and address: Robert Purrington, 4700 Bissonet Dr., Metairie, LA 70003

7. Other observers accompanying reporter who also identified the bird(s):

Conover, Myers, Wallace,  Sorrells, Patton

8. Other observers who independently identified the bird(s): same as above

9. Light conditions (position of bird in relation to shade and to direction and amount of light): clear sky, seen from all directions relative to sun

10. Optical equipment (type, power, condition): 10x42 binoculars

11. Distance to bird(s): never less than 200 f t

12. Duration of observation: about 15 minutes, but not visible entire time.  Perhaps 2 minutes of continuous observation

13. Habitat: scrubby chenier woods, mix of hackberry and acacia/mesquite

14. Behavior of bird / circumstances of observation (flying, feeding, resting; include and stress habits used in identification; relate events surrounding observation): Conover found the bird and called us on Myers’ cell phone, saying he had an “odd woodpecker.”  As we ran toward Conover the discussion centered around the likelihood of Laddder-backed.  Then we heard the bird call and it flew directly over us (myself, Myers, and Patton, I think) and landed in a tree-top about 75 yards away.  One look and everyone one could see the head/face pattern and ladder back, and simultaneously identified it as Ladder-backed.  Conover came over shouting “Ladder-backed” as well.  After 20-30 seconds, the bird flew to the north.  Wallace and I went about 100 yds north to the next E-W clearing, and I played a Ladder-backed call, whereupon Wallace heard the bird “reply.”  We went after it and picked it up in a tree top, from which it almost immediate flew, back toward the south again.  After 2-3 minutes we picked it up again, in a tree-top, then flushed it 2-3 more times until it was near the parking area at the lighthouse.  Finally it took, flew over the canal, past the lighthouse, apparently landing in  the woods just being the lighthouse, on the edge of the river.  We scanned those trees for about 30 minutes, constantly playing tapes, but to no avail.  It is not known whether it crossed the river, which was only ½ mile away.

15. Description (include only what was actually seen, not what "should" have been seen; include if possible: total length/relative size compared to other familiar species, body bulk, shape, proportions, bill, eye, leg, and plumage characteristics. Stress features that separate it from similar species): the bird was a smallish woodpecker with bounding flight, had a black-and white “ladder-back”, an extensive red cap, and a face pattern consisting primarily of two parallel black stripes, one through the eye, the other extending toward the bill.  The bird called frequently and Wallace recorded calls with his video.

16. Voice: sharp, somewhat Hairy-like.  Recorded by Wallace on video tape.

17. Similar species (include how they were eliminated by your observation): very superficially could be said to resemble the larger Red-bellied, except the red was redder and did not go down the nape at all.  In fact, none of the Melanerpes woodpeckers have similar face patterns, and the same goes for other species with similarly patterned backs, belonging to Colaptes, Dendrocopus, Dendropicos, etc.  Call, which resembled a Hairy Woodpecker was totally different as was the face pattern.   The only credible possibility among North American woodpeckers, though far out of range, would be Nuttall’s.  But on this bird almost the entire crown was red and the calls were quite different from those of Nuttall’s I listened to and matched Ladder-backed exactly (using the calls on the e-book version of Sibley).   The bird responded to Ladder-backed calls.  No hint of hybridization, e.g., with Hairy, which is known to occur. 


18. Photographs or tape recordings obtained? (by whom? attached?): Photographs by Conover, Patton, and myself, at least.  Video by Wallace, with audio.  My photos not attached—Conover’s are very much better, plus Patton’s flight shot.

19. Previous experience with this species: Numerous times in west-central to west Texas.

20. Identification aids: (list books, illustrations, other birders, etc. used in identification):

a. at time of observation: none

b. after observation: Sibley, primarily, to check details of face pattern and to compare with Nuttall’s.

21. This description is written from: _____ notes made during the observation (_____notes attached?);_____notes made after the observation (date:_5/14/2011____); _____memory.

22. Are you positive of your identification if not, explain: Yes

23. Signature of reporter:  Robert D. Purrington______________________________Date:__5/16/2011________Time:__4 p.m._____




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