Black-cheeked Woodpecker (Melanerpes pucherani): Barry Kent MacKay

A while ago I took the back, textured, side of a small piece of acid-free Masonite, sanded it down and put on layers first of gesso, and then acrylic. The surface still showed the unform grid pattern of the underlying Masonite, but I thought it might be fun to see what it was like to paint on.  I had been looking through Google images and remembered one of a Black-cheeked Woodpecker clinging to the side of an interesting looking palm. I found it, and, using a specimen of the species and my own sketches and photos for reference, redrew both the bird and the tree.  I transferred the sketch, not really thinking I’d finish the study, but I just kept going, moving to oil paints for the final layers. The results are different from what I usually do since the textured pattern, not unlike the effect of some linen canvases, still influences the final appearance. 

These attractive woodpeckers are reasonably common from south-eastern Mexico south as far as western Ecuador.  I first encountered it in Costa Rica, in lowland forest, but this is the first time I have drawn it beyond the level of the rough sketches, done some fifty odd years ago.  While these noisy, colourful woodpeckers dig into trees for insects in typical woodpecker fashion, they also like fruit, and can be attracted to bird feeders with bananas and other fruit.  They nest well up in a dead tree, where they lay two to four white eggs, incubated by both sexes. They are about the same size as the related Red-headed Woodpecker of North America (M. erythrocephalus), roughly 60 grams (about two ounces).  The female is like the male, but with a black, not red, crown.

The painting is approximately life-size, and is 10 by 8 inches.

Barry Kent MacKay

Bird Artist, Illustrator

Studio: (905) 472 9731

Purchase, print, product info:

31 Colonel Butler Drive

Markham, ON L3P 6B6 Canada

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