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Merlin Bird ID

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    Red-headed Woodpecker

    ID Info
    Silhouette WoodpeckersWoodpeckers

    Red-headed Woodpecker

    Melanerpes erythrocephalus
    • ORDER: Piciformes
    • FAMILY: Picidae
    Basic Description

    The gorgeous Red-headed Woodpecker is so boldly patterned it’s been called a “flying checkerboard,” with an entirely crimson head, a snow-white body, and half white, half inky black wings. These birds don’t act quite like most other woodpeckers: they’re adept at catching insects in the air, and they eat lots of acorns and beech nuts, often hiding away extra food in tree crevices for later. This magnificent species has declined severely in the past half-century because of habitat loss and changes to its food supply.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Red-headed WoodpeckerRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    Look for Red-headed Woodpeckers in scattered, open woodlots in agricultural areas, dead timber in swamps, or pine savannas. Walk slowly, listening for tapping or drumming, and keep your eyes alert for telltale flashes of black and white as these high-contrast woodpeckers fly in between perches. The red head can be hard to see in strong glare. Raucous, harsh weah! calls will also give away the presence of a Red-headed Woodpecker.

    Other Names
    • Carpintero cabecirrojo (Spanish)
    • Pic à tête rouge (French)

    Backyard Tips

    Red-headed Woodpeckers occasionally visit feeders in winter, especially suet. They will eat seeds, corn, acorns, beechnuts, pecans, and many kinds of fruits (including apples, pears, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, mulberries, and poison ivy fruits).

    • Cool Facts