You can find this species across most of the forests, woodlands, and wooded suburbs of the eastern United States, including oak-hickory forest, pine-hardwood forest, maple and tulip-poplar stands, and pine flatwoods. It’s a bit more common in river bottoms and wetlands, in the south of its range, and at elevations below about 2,000 feet.Back to top
Though this bird mainly eats insects, spiders, and other arthropods, it eats plenty of plant material, too. In particular, acorns, nuts, and pine cones, as well as seeds extracted from annual and perennial plants and (particularly in fall and winter) fruits ranging from grapes and hackberries to oranges and mangoes. Occasionally eats lizards, nestling birds, even minnows.Back to top
Nests in dead trees (hardwoods or pines), dead limbs of live trees, and fence posts. The same pair may nest in the same tree year after year, but typically excavate a new cavity each year, often placing the new one beneath the previous year’s.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers lay their eggs on the bed of wood chips left over after excavating their nest cavity. Nest holes are 22 to 32 centimeters deep, with a cylindrical living space of roughly 9 by 13 centimeters.
|Clutch Size:||2-6 eggs|
|Number of Broods:||1-3 broods|
|Egg Length:||0.9-1.1 in (2.2-2.9 cm)|
|Egg Width:||0.7-0.9 in (1.7-2.2 cm)|
|Incubation Period:||12 days|
|Nestling Period:||24-27 days|
|Egg Description:||Smooth white.|
|Condition at Hatching:||Naked and helpless, eyes closed.|
These birds often stick to main branches and trunks of trees, where they hitch in classic woodpecker fashion, leaning away from the trunk and onto their stiff tail feathers as they search for food hiding in bark crevices. When nesting, males choose the site and begin to excavate, then try to attract a female by calling and tapping softly on the wood around or in the cavity. When a female accepts, she taps along with the male, then helps put the finishing touches on the nest cavity. At feeders, Red-bellied Woodpeckers will push aside most bird species other than Blue Jays.Back to top
Red-bellied Woodpeckers are common and have expanded their range northward in recent decades. Their population increased by about 1% per year from 1966 to 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 16 million and rates the species a 7 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of low conservation concern.Back to top
Red-bellied Woodpeckers bring bright colors and entertaining action to bird feeders. If you live near any wooded patches, you may be able to attract them using feeders filled with suet (in winter), peanuts, and sometimes sunflower seeds. They’ve even been spotted drinking nectar from hummingbird feeders. Dead trees may encourage the birds to forage naturally or even nest in your yard, and they may feed on berry trees such as hawthorn or mountain-ash in fall or winter. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.Back to top
Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2020). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2020. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2020.
Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.
Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2017). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2015. Version 2.07.2017. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.
Shackelford, Clifford E., Raymond E. Brown and Richard N. Conner. (2000). Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.
Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.