Red-head Info

Where are they?


Success Stories

Links and Papers

Program Info

Ongoing Research

Pair of redheads at nest

Red-head Info

The Red-headed Woodpecker, Melanerpes erythrocephalus, is a medium-sized woodpecker, about the size of a robin.

They breed in semi-open country across southern Canada and the eastern-central United States. Red-heads excavate nests in dead trees, or often in dead limbs of living trees high off the ground.

Red-heads often occur in loose colonies or clusters. If there is good habitat, many breeding pairs may be found in the same area. Even in clusters, birds remain territorial and do not cooperate.

Northern birds will migrate to the southern parts of the range; southern birds are often permanent residents.

Red-heads are opportunistic feeders. In summer, they will fly to catch insects in the air or on the ground. Through the fall they will gather and store nuts. They are omnivorous, eating insects, seeds, fruits, berries and nuts.

Once abundant, populations have declined by 89% since 1967. This is partly due to increased nesting competition from starlings and collisions with cars. Mainly declines are due to overall loss of habitat and especially loss of dead trees and trees with large dead limbs. Dead branches are excavated for nests, roost and food caches.

Many Northeastern states no longer have nesting Red-headed Woodpeckers.