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Red-headed Woodpecker

Melanerpes erythrocephalus

Length: 8.5 to 9.5 inches Wingspan: 16 to 18 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Distinctive, with red head, black back and tail, white underparts.

Red-headed Woodpecker - Melanerpes erythrocephalusA very distinctive and elegant woodpecker, and the only woodpecker in the state with an all red head.  They are birds of semi-open country, and can often be found in and around isolated shelterbelts and groves in the state.  Unfortunately, they are in decline throughout much of their range, and are only commonly seen in the southeastern portion of the state.

Habitat: Isolated Groves and shelterbelts, orchards, shade trees.  Avoids unbroken forest, preferring open country, forest edges, or forest clearings.

Diet: Omnivorous.  Eats a wide variety of insects, earthworms, seeds, berries, fruit, and occasionally eggs of other birds.

Behavior: Foraging technique depends upon individual birds, seasonality, and opportunities available.  Often feeds by clambering through foliage and branches, gleaning insects from vegetation surfaces.  They will also flycatch, flying out from an observation perch to catch passing insects in mid-air.  They will feed on the ground, hopping after insects or picking up fallen fruit and nuts. 

Nesting: June and early July

Song: Red-headed Woodpecker Song 

Migration: Birds in much of their normal range are permanent residents.  In the northern and western edges of their range, individuals do move towards southeastern states in the winter, but usually don't migrate great distances.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Red-headed Woodpecker sightings

Feeders: Suet, sunflower seeds, cracked corn, nuts, and bread.

Birdhouses: Some will nest in birdhouses built for woodpeckers.

Similar Species: Generally distinctive.

Conservation Status: Has been in decline, possibly due to competition for nest sites with European Starlings.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Red-headed Woodpecker

2) WhatBird - Red-headed Woodpecker

3) Audubon Guide - Red-headed Woodpecker

Photo Information: June 28th, 2003 -- Lincoln County -- Terry L. Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Red-headed Woodpecker photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Red-headed Woodpecker - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common summer resident in the southeastern part of the state, uncommon elsewhere.

Additional Red-headed Woodpecker Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
Red-headed Woodpecker - Melanerpes erythrocephalus
 Red-headed Woodpecker - Melanerpes erythrocephalusRed-headed Woodpecker - Melanerpes erythrocephalusRed-headed Woodpecker - Melanerpes erythrocephalusRed-headed Woodpecker - Melanerpes erythrocephalus