Bird’s ID – Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker


The Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) is a small or medium-sized woodpecker from temperate North America. Their breeding habitat is open country across southern Canada and the eastern-central United States. It is rated as least concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List of Endangered species, having been downlisted from near threatened in 2018.

Adults are strikingly tri-colored, with a black back and tail and a red head and neck. Their underparts are mainly white. The wings are black with white secondary remiges. Adult males and females are identical in plumage. Juveniles have very similar markings, but have an all grey head. While red-bellied woodpeckers have some bright red on the backs of their necks and heads, red-headed woodpeckers have a much deeper red that covers their entire heads and necks, as well as a dramatically different overall plumage pattern.

These are mid-sized woodpeckers. Both sexes measure from 19 to 25 cm (7.5 to 9.8 in) in length, with a wingspan of 42.5 cm (16.7 in). They weigh from 56 to 97 g (2.0 to 3.4 oz) with an average of 76 g (2.7 oz). Each wing measures 12.7–15 cm (5.0–5.9 in), the tail measures 6.6–8.5 cm (2.6–3.3 in), the bill measures 2.1–3 cm (0.83–1.18 in) and the tarsus measures 1.9–2.5 cm (0.75–0.98 in). The maximum longevity in the wild is 9.9 years. They give a tchur-tchur call or drum on their territory.

These birds fly to catch insects in the air or on the ground, forage on trees or gather and store nuts. They are omnivorous, eating insects, seeds, fruits, berries, nuts, and occasionally small rodents and even the eggs of other birds. About two thirds of their diet is made up of plants. They nest in a cavity in a dead tree, utility pole, or a dead part of a tree that is between 2.45 and 24.5 m (8.0 and 80.4 ft) above the ground. They lay 4 to 7 eggs in early May which are incubated for two weeks. Two broods can be raised in a single nesting season. Northern birds migrate to the southern parts of the range, with most having arrived on the breeding range by late April, and having left for winter quarters by late October; southern birds are often permanent residents.


Photo Gallery



© HJ Ruiz – Avian101

27 thoughts on “Bird’s ID – Red-headed Woodpecker

  1. We don’t get this stunning bird on the west coast, so what a treat it is here to read about it and observe your photos, HJ. Fantastic photos, such clarity, and capturing the beauty so well.

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