Wildlife Journal Junior!
New Hampshire PBS

Home       |       Wild Files       |       N.H. Animals       |       Animals A-Z       |       Watch Online

Red-headed Woodpecker - Melanerpes erythrocephalus

Red-bellied Woodpecker


 Kingdom: Animalia
 Phylum: Chordata
 Class: Aves
 Order: Piciformes
 Family: Picidae 
 Genus: Melanerpes
ICUN Redlist - World Status: Least Concern Near Threatened


Red-headed WoodpeckerThe red-headed woodpecker is a small woodpecker, about 7-9 inches in length with a wingspan of 14-17 inches. It has a red head, neck, and upper breast. It has a white lower chest and stomach, black wings with a white patch on the back, and a black tail. It has a long, strong, sharp bill and black eyes. Males and females look alike.


mapThe red-headed woodpecker can be found throughout the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Northern populations may migrate in the winter.




The red-headed woodpecker is found in open woodlands, forest edges and clearings, river bottoms, orchards, parks, open woods, wooded swamps, and grasslands with trees. It especially likes areas with dead or dying trees.



Red-headed WoodpeckerThe red-headed woodpecker is omnivorous. It eats insects, spiders, earthworms, nuts, seeds, berries, fruit and occasionally small mammals. It may also eat bird eggs, fledglings, and mice. The red-headed woodpecker doesn't drill into trees to excavate insects as often as other woodpeckers. Instead, it perches on a tree branch or fence post and waits for flying prey to go by, or it forages on the ground for food.

Red-headed WoodpeckerThe red-headed woodpecker is one of only four species of woodpecker that stores food. It hides food in crevices in trees, under the bark of trees, in fence posts, and even under shingles in roofs! The red-headed woodpecker may even wedge a live grasshopper or beetle into a crevice to eat later!

Life Cycle

Red-headed WoodpeckerThe red-headed woodpecker nests in holes in dead trees, telephone poles, fence posts, and even under roofs. The female lays 3-10 eggs. Incubation lasts 12-14 days. Both the male and the female incubate the eggs. The male incubates the eggs at night. Both parents feed and care for the chicks. The chicks fledge when they are 24-31 days old and can catch their own food shortly after they fledge.


Red-headed woodpeckers are solitary birds, except during mating and when raising young.

Audio Credit: xeno-canto.org Don Joness cc logo