Red-Headed Woodpecker

Red-Headed Woodpecker

Flag bird, Flying checker-board, Half-a-shirt, Jellycoat, Patriotic bird, Redhead, Redheaded woodpecker, Shirt-tail bird, Tricolored woodpecker, White-shirt

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Melanerpes erythrocephalus
Population size
1.2 mln
Life Span
9-12 yrs
WEIGHT
56-97 g
LENGTH
19-25 cm
WINGSPAN
42.5 cm

Red-headed woodpeckers are gorgeous small- or medium-sized woodpeckers from North America. 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.

Di

Diurnal

Om

Omnivore

Ar

Arboreal

Al

Altricial

Zo

Zoochory

Te

Terrestrial

Te

Territorial

Ov

Oviparous

Mo

Monogamy

So

Solitary

Pa

Partial Migrant

R

starts with

Distribution

Geography

Red-headed woodpeckers breed across southern Canada and the eastern-central United States. Northern birds migrate to the southern parts of the range, while southern populations are often permanent residents. Red-headed woodpeckers live in the open country including forest edges, open pine woodlands, and pine savannas, woodlands with oak or beech, grasslands with scattered trees, groves, parks, and farmland.

Red-Headed Woodpecker habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Red-headed woodpeckers are solitary outside of the breeding season. They are active during the day and spend most of their time foraging. These birds fly to catch insects in the air or on the ground and forage on trees. They also gather and store grasshoppers, nuts, berries, and acorns for later consumption during the colder months. Red-headed woodpeckers migrate in large flocks, usually by day. Most birds usually arrive in their breeding range by late April and leave for winter quarters by late October. Red-headed woodpeckers are noisy and on their territory, they give a loud 'tchur-tchur' call or drum; when alarmed at nest they will make 'krit-tar-rah' or 'quarr-quarr-quarr' calls.

Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

Red-headed woodpeckers are omnivorous birds. They eat insects, seeds, fruits, berries, nuts, and occasionally small rodents and even the eggs of other birds.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
April-July
INCUBATION PERIOD
2 weeks
INDEPENDENT AGE
27-30 days
BABY NAME
chick
BABY CARRYING
4-7 eggs

Red-headed woodpeckers are monogamous and form pairs though some males may be polygynous and mate with more than one female. These birds breed from April to July and can produce two broods in a single nesting season. Pairs nest in a cavity in a dead tree, utility pole, or a dead part of a tree that is between 2.5-24.5 m (8-80.4 ft) above the ground. They lay 4 to 7 eggs in early May which are incubated for two weeks. The chicks hatch altricial. They are helpless and fed by both parents. The young fledge at 27-30 days of age and become reproductively mature when they are one year old.

Population

Population threats

The Red-headed woodpecker was historically a common species in southern Canada and the east-central United States. Consistent long-term population declines have resulted in its threatened status in Canada and several states in the US. Throughout most of their range, these birds inhabit areas that have been heavily altered by humans. Factors suggested for their declines include: loss of overall habitat and, within habitats, standing dead wood required for nest sites, limitations of food supply, and possible nest-site competition with other cavity nesters such as European starlings or Red-bellied woodpeckers. At present, Red-headed woodpeckers suffer from habitat loss and degradation as well as from collisions with auto transport and shortage in food sources.

Population number

According to the All About Birds resource the total breeding population size of the Red-headed woodpecker is around 1.2 million birds. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.

Ecological niche

Red-headed woodpeckers play an important role in the ecosystem they live in. These birds control the insect populations they eat and may help to disperse seeds of various plants that they both eat and cache. Red-headed woodpeckers also play an important role in providing shelters for other cavity-nesting birds and mammals that are not able to excavate their tree holes.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Red-headed woodpeckers are one of the most adept flycatchers among the North American woodpeckers.
  • During the mating season, the male and female Red-headed woodpeckers often play “hide and seek” with each other around stumps or telephone poles.
  • When in the tree Red-headed woodpeckers are able to move upwards, backward, or sideways, but never with their head downwards.
  • The Red-headed woodpecker is the only North American woodpecker that stores food and then covers it with bark.
  • Red-headed woodpeckers can excavate a cavity measuring up to 20-60 centimeters (7.8-23.5 in) in depth.

References

1. Red-Headed Woodpecker on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-headed_woodpecker
2. Red-Headed Woodpecker on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22680810/131390783
3. Xeno-canto bird call - https://xeno-canto.org/698853

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