Red headed woodpecker

Red headed woodpecker identification – color, markings, features


  • Red head, black back, white underparts
  • Black and white wings (black on top of wings, white on bottom, color distribution is about 50 / 50)
  • only woodpecker with an entirely red head
  • Male and Female have same color pattern
  • Juveniles have brown head and lack some of the black and white color definition in the wings from that of the adults


Red headed woodpecker size

  • Medium sized woodpecker
  • about 8 inches in length
  • bill is about 1.25 inches
  • wingspan is about 16 inches
  • weight about 3 to 3.25 ounces

Red headed woodpecker range

Red headed woodpecker range

  • year round in eastern and central United States – southern North Dakota south to northern and eastern Texas and all states east of that line (except for most of New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire and all of Maine)
  • during migration summer range to extreme southern Canada, and far eastern edges of Montana, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and winter range to southern Florida


Red headed woodpecker population statistics

  • according to various bird counts conducted through out its’ range, the population of red headed woodpeckers is steadily decreasing due to loss of habitat (deforestation) and nest site competition with other woodpeckers and starlings

Facts about Red headed woodpecker

What do Red headed woodpeckers eat

Red headed woodpeckers will readily feed on a woodpecker feeder containing seeds, nuts, or some type of suet mixture and are known to frequent suburban backyards. To learn other details about their feeding habits read red headed woodpecker diet

Red headed woodpecker habitat

A Red headed woodpecker will generally live in forested areas where there is low or very little undergrowth. Areas where they typically inhabit include wooded edges around creeks, rivers, and beaver ponds, near forested clear cuts, tree lined edges of farm fields, control burned forests, pecan and apple orchards, tree farms, treed edges of power line easements, parks, and along the wooded edges of roads and highways. Red headed’s can be found in hardwood forests, especially oak stands, maple and beech forests, pine plantations, mixed oak and pine forests, and oak scrub habitats.

Red headed woodpecker nest – breeding, mating, and nesting

Red headed woodpeckers predominantly nest in dead trees, but they will also nest in live trees that have some dying wood on them. They also are known for excavating nesting holes in telephone poles and poles within power line easements. Both sexes of red headed woodpeckers work to build the nest cavity, but the male selects the nest site and does most of the work. The entrance hole to the nest is normally about 2 inches in diameter, the depth about 10 to 15 inches, and the hole is cone shaped (the deeper the hole gets, the wider it becomes), so that the bottom of the hole is big enough for eggs and incubation. The bottom of the nest is unlined and may contain just a few wood chips and shavings left over from excavation of the hole. Red headed’s normally breed only once a year, although sometimes they will breed twice. They typically do so in mid to late spring, and then if unsuccessful may breed again soon thereafter. They typically lay between 4 and 8 solid white colored eggs, which measure about .75 inch by 1 inch. Egg incubation is about 11-13 days and the nesting period is normally complete after about 30 days.

Red headed woodpecker call and sounds

Both male and female red headed woodpeckers use multiple chattering ‘chir’ calls, similar to the red bellied woodpecker, but the red headed’s is raspier and scratchier. Both male and female will ‘drum’ on branches and the sides of trees in short bursts.

Other noted behavioral traits of Red headed woodpeckers

They are one of the few woodpeckers that are very skilled at fly catching – they can catch insects in mid air like flycatchers. They also are one of the few woodpeckers that store and cache their food in the cracks and crevices of tree bark and are known for defending their caches from other birds, and covering their caches with bark to hide them from other birds and woodpeckers. They are fairly noisy communicators and their raspy and crackling calls can frequently be heard as they fly and glide from tree to tree.

Similar woodpecker species

Red headed woodpeckers share ranges and habitats with the following woodpeckers of North America:


Pileated woodpecker