RCW - Red-cockaded Woodpecker
Photo Credit: Martjan Lammertink - Taken in the Francis Marion National Forest
The common name came into use during the early 1800’s when ‘cockade’ was regularly used to refer to a ribbon or other ornament worn on a hat. Female RCWs lack the red cockade. Juvenile males have a red ‘patch’ in the center of their black crown. This patch disappears during the fall of their first year at which time their ‘red-cockades’ appear.
The RCW shares the southeast with seven other species of woodpeckers. Hairy and downy woodpeckers could be mistaken for RCWs as they are also small and have black and white barred wings, but not a barred back. Only the RCW has the white cheek patch. Other woodpecker species, including the red-bellied, red-headed, pileated, northern flicker and yellow-bellied sapsucker, can be distinguished from the RCW by either having very noticeable red on their head or lacking the black and white bars on the back.