Why is that woodpecker called red-bellied instead of red-headed?

Why is that woodpecker called red-bellied instead of red-headed?
The common name of the Red-bellied Woodpecker is somewhat misleading, as the first thing people usually spot is the red head feathers. But back in the 1700-1800s when birds were first being cataloged, the person naming the bird may have only received a description or drawing by another author. Unfortunately back then it was common to shoot a bird to study it up close and sketch all their markings.

Can you imaging trying to establish every bird's official name across the continent to allow birders in different states to talk about a specific bird that may have several local names. The American Ornithological Society (AOS) is the accepted authority for American bird names and scientific nomenclature. And the International Ornithologists Union IOC Bird List has standardized English names for all birds of the world.

Still, the official names chosen often seem a mystery to the average backyard birdwatcher, many who insist the Red-bellied Woodpecker is misnamed. At least you can sometimes see the red on the belly. The Hairy Woodpecker was named for its coarse feathers and Downy Woodpecker its soft feathers down the middle of their backs! That doesn’t mean you still can’t call birds by any nickname you want when you talk about birds with friends or family.

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