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Red-cockaded Woodpecker


IUCN Conservation Status: Near Threatened

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is a habitat specialist of the Southeast’s once-vast longleaf pine stands. Its habitat—old pines with very little understory—was shaped by the region’s frequent lightning fires. They also occur in stands of loblolly, slash, and other pine species. The birds dig cavities in living pines softened by heartwood rot. They live in family groups that work together to dig cavities and raise young. The species declined drastically as its original habitat was cut down, and the species was listed as Endangered in 1970.


  • Calls
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The best known call of this very vocal woodpecker is a raspy “sklit” it gives when disturbed. Other calls include a “churt” (repeated every 2-4 seconds) when flying into a roosting and nesting area, and a rattle that ends with a drop in pitch. Foraging birds give a soft, melodious chortling call when close to each other.

Other Sounds

Both males and females drum on tree trunks, although not often or loudly. While foraging they may produce a soft drumming sound, similar to the rattle of a rattlesnake, by vibrating their tongues on the tree surface.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Find This Bird

With much of this species’ original habitat lost to logging, your best bet for finding this species is in national wildlife refuges, national forests, and other federal preserves that can protect and manage large areas of habitat. Because the species is endangered, some known nesting areas may be off limits and bird watchers should respect those regulations. However, in places where public access is allowed, these birds’ nesting and foraging locations are well known and a quick chat with a ranger or visitor center manager can quickly point you in the right direction. You’ll want to be searching open stands of old pines with very little growth in the understory or subcanopy—if you find yourself in denser vegetation where you can’t easily see the pine trunks, chances are there won’t be any Red-cockaded Woodpeckers there. Nest and roost trees can be easy to spot because of sap flowing down the trunk near the cavities—although bear in mind that the birds typically have several such cavities in their territory.



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