Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

Red-headed Woodpecker

[order] PICIFORMES | [family] Picidae | [latin] Melanerpes erythrocephalus | [UK] Red-headed Woodpecker | [FR] Pic a tete rouge | [DE] Rotkopf-Specht | [ES] Carpintero Cabecirrojo | [NL] Roodkopspecht


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

A black-backed woodpecker with a head that is i entirely red (other woodpeckers may have a patch of red). Back i solid black,
rump white. Large, square white patches are conspicuous on the wing (making the lower back look white when the bird is on a tree). Sexes similar. Immature is dusky-headed; the large white wing patches identify it.

Listen to the sound of Red-headed Woodpecker

[audio: Woodpecker.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

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North America : Southcentral, Southeast Canada to Southeast USA


Groves, farm country, orchards, shade trees in towns, large scattered tree
Avoids unbroken forest, favoring open country or at least clearings in the woods. Forest edges, orchards, open pine woods, groves of tall trees in open country are likely habitats. Winter habitats influenced by source of food in fall, such as acorns or b


Male establishes territory and advertises there with calling, drumming. Displays (including aggressive ones) involve bowing head, spreading wings. In resident birds, male’s winter territory may become breeding territory.
b Nest:
Male’s winter roosting cavity may be used for nest, or new cavity may be excavated (mostly by male). Nest cavity is in bare dead tree or limb, from a few feet above ground to 65′ or higher. No nest material other than wood chips in bottom of cavity.

b Eggs: 4-5, sometimes 3-7, rarely more. White. Incubation is by both sexes (with male incubating at night), 12-13 days.
b Young: Are fed by both parents, and leave the nest at about 27-
31 days. 1 or 2 broods per year; pairs may start on a second nesting attempt while still feeding fledglings from the first. Second brood may be raised in same nest but more often in new cavity.

Feeding habits

Omnivorous. Perhaps the most omnivorous of woodpeckers. Diet includes wide variety of insects, also s
piders, earthworms, nuts, seeds, berries, wild and cultivated fruit, rarely small rodents. Sometimes eats eggs and nestlings of other birds. Also sometimes eats bark.
b Behavior:
Opportunistic. Flies out from a perch to catch insects in the air or on ground; climbs tree trunks and major limbs; clambers in outer branches; hops on ground. Gathers acorns, beechnuts, and other nuts in fall, storing them in holes and crevices, then fe
eding on them during winter.


This species has shown long-term declines which have continued at a moderately rapid rate owing to loss and degradation of its habitat in recent decades. Consequently it is considered Near Threatened.
Red-headed Woodpecker status Near Threatened


East of the Rockies from southern Canada to Gulf States.
b Migration: Some are probably permanent residents but others, especially from northern and western areas, travel to wintering areas in southeast
ern states. Migrates by day. A short-distance migrant, not known to occur south of United States.

Distribution map

Red-headed Woodpecker distribution range map

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