Red-headed woodpecker

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Red-headed Woodpecker)
Jump to: navigation, search
Red-headed woodpecker
Melanerpes erythrocephalus -tree trunk-USA.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Subclass: Neornithes
Infraclass: Neognathae
Superorder: Neoaves
Order: Piciformes
Suborder: Pici
Family: Picidae
Subfamily: Picinae
Tribe: Dendropicini
Genus: Melanerpes
Species: M. erythrocephalus
Binomial name
Melanerpes erythrocephalus
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Melanerpes erythrocephalus distr.png
Red-headed woodpecker range      Summer range     Year-round range     Wintering range

The red-headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) is a small or medium-sized woodpecker from temperate North America. Their breeding habitat is open country across southern Canada and the eastern-central United States. The species is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN.

The red-bellied woodpecker also has its most prominent red part of its plumage on the head, but it looks quite different in other respects.


The red-headed woodpecker's distinct colors are true to the bird's name.

The red-headed woodpecker was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus in his 18th-century work Systema Naturae.[2] The specific epithet is derived from the Ancient Greek words erythros 'red' and kephalos 'head'.[3]

There are three subspecies recognized:

  • M. e. brodkorbi
  • M. e. caurinus
  • M. e. erythrocephalus


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.[4] Juveniles have very similar markings, but have an all grey head.[4] While red-bellied woodpeckers have some bright red on the backs of their necks and heads, red-headed woodpeckers have a much deeper red that covers their entire heads and necks, as well as a dramatically different overall plumage pattern.

These are mid-sized woodpeckers. Both sexes measure from 19 to 25 cm (7.5 to 9.8 in) in length, with a wingspan of 42.5 cm (16.7 in).[5][6] They weigh from 56 to 97 g (2.0 to 3.4 oz) with an average of 76 g (2.7 oz).[7] Each wing measures 12.7–15 cm (5.0–5.9 in), the tail measures 6.6–8.5 cm (2.6–3.3 in), the bill measures 2.1–3 cm (0.83–1.18 in) and the tarsus measures 1.9–2.5 cm (0.75–0.98 in).[8] The maximum longevity in the wild is 9.9 years.[7]

They give a tchur-tchur call or drum on territory.


These birds fly to catch insects in the air or on the ground, forage on trees or gather and store nuts. They are omnivorous, eating insects, seeds, fruits, berries, nuts, and occasionally even the eggs of other birds.[4] About two thirds of their diet is made up of plants.[4] They nest in a cavity in a dead tree, utility pole, or a dead part of a tree that is between 2.45 and 24.5 m (8.0 and 80.4 ft) above the ground.[4] They lay 4 to 7 eggs in early May which are incubated for two weeks.[4] Two broods can be raised in a single nesting season.[4] Northern birds migrate to the southern parts of the range, with most having arrived on the breeding range by late April, and having left for winter quarters by late October;[9][10] southern birds are often permanent residents.


The red-headed woodpecker is a once common but declining bird species found in southern Canada and east-central United States. Consistent long-term population declines have resulted in red-headed woodpecker's threatened status in Canada and several states in the US. This has led to an immediate need for conservation, which, so far, has been the focus of limited studies. Throughout most of its range it inhabits areas that have been heavily altered by humans. Factors suggested for red-headed woodpecker declines include: loss of overall habitat and, within habitats, standing dead wood required for nest sites,[11] limitations of food supply,[12] and possible nest-site competition with other cavity nesters such as European starlings or red-bellied woodpeckers.[13][14] Unfortunately few of these factors have been substantiated.

Of the 600 Canadian Important Bird Areas only seven report the red-headed woodpecker in their area: Cabot Head, Ontario on the Georgian Bay side of the tip of Bruce Peninsula; Carden Plain, Ontario east of Lake Simcoe; Long Point Peninsula and Marshes, Ontario along Lake Erie near London, Ontario; Point Abino, Ontario on Lake Erie near Niagara Falls; Port Franks Forested Dunes, Ontario northeast of Sarnia on Lake Huron; Kinosota/Leifur, Manitoba at the northwest side of Lake Manitoba south of The Narrows and east of Riding Mountain National Park; and along South Saskatchewan River from Empress, Alberta to Lancer Ferry in Saskatchewan.[15]

Popular culture[edit]

In 1996, the United States Postal Service issued a 2-cent postage stamp depicting a perched red-headed woodpecker.[16] The stamp was discontinued at some time thereafter, but re-issued in 1999 and remained available for purchase until 2006.[17]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Melanerpes erythrocephalus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ (in Latin) Linnaeus, C (1758). Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. Holmiae. (Laurentii Salvii). 
  3. ^ Liddell, Henry George & Robert Scott (1980). A Greek-English Lexicon (Abridged Edition). United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-910207-4. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Porter, Eloise F.; James F. Parnell; Robert P. Teulings; Ricky Davis (2006). Birds of the Carolinas (Second ed.). Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. p. 220. ISBN 978-0-8078-5671-0. 
  5. ^ Red-headed Woodpecker. All About Birds.
  6. ^ Red-headed woodpecker.
  7. ^ a b Wasser, D. E.; Sherman, P. W. (2010). "Avian longevities and their interpretation under evolutionary theories of senescence". Journal of Zoology. 280 (2): 103. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.2009.00671.x. 
  8. ^ Winkler, Hans; Christie, David A. and Nurney, David (1995) Woodpeckers: An Identification Guide to the Woodpeckers of the World, Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 978-0-395-72043-1
  9. ^ Henninger, W.F. (1906). "A preliminary list of the birds of Seneca County, Ohio" (PDF). Wilson Bulletin. 18 (2): 47–60. 
  10. ^ Ohio Ornithological Society (2004): Annotated Ohio state checklist.
  11. ^ Smith, K. G., J. H. Withgott, and P. G. Rodewald. (2000). Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus). The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online, Ithaca.
  12. ^ Ontario Partners in Flight. (2008). Ontario Landbird Conservation Plan: Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, North American Bird Conservation Region 13. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Bird Studies Canada, Environmental Canada. Draft Version 2.0.
  13. ^ Ingold, D. J. (1989). "Nesting phenology and competition for nest sites among Red-headed and Red-bellied Woodpeckers and European Starlings". Auk. 106: 209–217. 
  14. ^ Ingold, D. J. (1994). "Influence of nest-site competition between European Starlings and woodpeckers". Wilson's Bulletin. 106: 227–241. 
  15. ^ Important Bird Area Canada, Site Catalogue Query
  16. ^ America's 1996 Stamps Program (1996): Red-headed Woodpecker. Retrieved 2006-JAN-31.
  17. ^ USA Philatelic (2006). "Red-headed Woodpecker". USA Philatelic. 11 (1): 31. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]