Red-Headed Woodpecker

(Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

An unmistakable bird, the Red-Headed Woodpecker is strikingly beautiful, showing its colors of red, black, and white.

It is one of the most aggressive members of the family and one of the most omnivorous.

One of four species of woodpecker known to cache food for the winter.

It is also considered by most to be our prettiest woodpecker with well defined colors and markings.


The is the only woodpecker in North America with an entirely red head and neck (male and female). The back is solid black and the underside is white. Distinctive white inner wing patches and a white rump are especially noticeable in flight. Males can be differentiated from females by the amount of red on their head.

In males, the red crown extends over the nape; in females, red covers only the nape. Juveniles are brown and white with no red on their heads.

Red-headed woodpecker

Habitat and Diet:

The preferred habitats of Red-Headed Woodpeckers include open deciduous forests, groves of large trees in old fields, and wooded swamps.

Red-Heads feed on insects (ants, wasps, beetles, grasshoppers), centipedes, spiders, berries, small fruits, acorns, and beechnuts. Acorns and other nuts (mast) make up most of the winter diet.

These birds spend a great deal of their time fly catching from exposed perches.

You can attract these bird to your feeders by providing black oil sunflower seeds and suet.


Nesting cavities are excavated in isolated snags at almost ground level up to over 80 feet above the ground. Red-Headed Woodpeckers also will use existing cavities for nesting. The 4 to 8 eggs are laid 1 per day on a bed of wood chips.

Both adults excavate the cavity, incubate the eggs, feed the young, and defend the nest. The eggs hatch in approximately 14 days and the young birds leave the nest about 27 days later.

A very aggressive defender of nest and territory.


This species of woodpeckers are found throughout the central and eastern United States, west to the Gulf coast of Texas and New Mexico and north to southern Canada.

However, populations are sparsely distributed within this range.

Interesting Facts:

Sadly, the Red-Headed Woodpecker is endangered and threatened in many locations. A decline in farming and the associated loss of open woodlots through forest succession have reduced the amount of suitable habitat needed by these woodpeckers.

As with other woodpecker species, competition with starlings for nest cavities has also contributed to their decline.

Like Red-bellied woodpeckers, they store away food for winter by wedging acorns and insects into bark and tree crevices for later consumption.

Unlike other woodpecker species, this woodpecker will often catch flying insects rather than drill for insects.

Red-Headed Woodpeckers and other Common Birds

Create a Wildlife Habitat

Native Trees offer Food and Shelter

Attract Woodpeckers, Offer Suet

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