Species Spotlight: Red-Headed Woodpecker

Species Spotlight: Red-Headed Woodpecker

The Red-headed Woodpecker is a ferocious, vibrant bird that can be found over a large portion of the swamps, grasslands, and clearings in the continental United States. With a bright-red head, white underparts, and black backs, these feathered fowl are easily identifiable whether they are deep in a forest or hanging out on trees roadside. Among their strong flight abilities, Red-headed Woodpecker’s unique traits make them stand out.

These nomadic birds prefer to differ their breeding location year-after-year. However, even when not in breeding season, Red-headed Woodpeckers can be found nesting in dead trees and cavities in dead parts of living trees. Although both partners build a nest, the male woodpecker is the dominant craftsman. Speaking of mates, Red-headed Woodpeckers prefer to play “hide and seek” with potential partners as they dart around stumps, branches, and trees: once a mate is chosen, woodpeckers remain monogamous for a few consecutive years.

Fun Facts About the Red-headed Woodpecker

  • red-headed woodpecker on treeOne-third of their diet are animal materials (insects) and two-thirds are plant materials (fruit, nuts, and seeds).
  • One of the most skillful flycatchers among the North American woodpecker species.
  • The only North American woodpecker to store food and cover it with wood or bark.
  • Cherokee Indians use Red-headed Woodpeckers as a symbol in war.
  • Ornithologist Alexander Wilson realized his passion for wild birds because of his interest in this woodpecker in the 1700s.
  • The Red-headed Woodpecker that visited your yard last year is probably not the same one you are seeing this year. The birds tend to be very nomadic.
  • Did you know that some wild birds get nicknames? Well they do! The Red-headed Woodpecker is also referred to as: half-a-shirt, shirt tail bird, jellycoat, flag bird, or flying checker-board.

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