Bird GuideWoodpeckersRed-cockaded Woodpecker

At a Glance

Once fairly common in the southeastern United States, this bird is now rare, local, and considered an endangered species. It requires precise conditions within mature pine forest, a habitat that is now scarce. Lives in isolated clans, each clan an extended family group, with one pair of adults assisted in their nesting by up to four additional birds. The red cockade for which the bird is named, a small patch of feathers behind the eye of the male, is usually hard to see in the field.
Picidae, Woodpeckers, Tree-clinging Birds
Near Threatened
Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
Florida, Mid Atlantic, Plains, Southeast, Texas
Flap/Glide, Undulating

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Generally permanent resident; may wander some distance, perhaps after habitat destruction. Young females often disperse farther away from birthplace than young males.


8" (20 cm). Back barred with black and white; big white cheek patch, black cap. Small red "cockade" behind eye of male is seldom noticeable. See other bar-backed woodpeckers.
About the size of a Sparrow, About the size of a Robin
Black, Red, White
Wing Shape
Broad, Rounded
Tail Shape
Multi-pointed, Wedge-shaped

Songs and Calls

A nuthatch-like yank-yank. Also a rattling scold note.
Call Pattern
Falling, Flat
Call Type
Chirp/Chip, Drum, Rattle, Scream, Trill


Open pine woodlands. Ideal habitat is mature pine woods (trees 80-100 or more years old), with very open understory maintained by frequent fires (the pines are fire-resistant). Most common in longleaf pine, but inhabits other pines as well, rarely cypress adjacent to pine woods.



3-4, sometimes 2-5. White. Incubation is by both parents and to some extent by additional helpers; breeding male is on nest at night. Incubation period notably short, about 10-11 days.


Are fed by both parents and by helpers. Young leave nest at about 26-29 days. 1 brood per year, rarely 2.

Feeding Behavior

Forages mainly on pine trunks and branches, flaking off bits of bark in search of insects underneath. Family groups may forage together, males tending to forage on branches and upper trunk, females on lower trunk.


Mostly insects. Feeds mainly on insects and other arthropods, especially ants and beetles, also termites, roaches, centipedes, and others. Also eats some wild fruits and pine seeds.


Taking part in nesting are the breeding pair plus 1-4 additional "helpers." These helpers are mostly males (70-95% of those studied) and mostly the breeding pair's offspring from previous seasons. Nest: Preferred sites are cavities excavated in large live pines infected with red heart fungus (which gives tree soft center inside solid outer shell). Cavity usually 30-40' above ground, can be much lower or higher (to well above 100'). Entrance surrounded by tiny holes from which sticky resin oozes out, protecting nest from climbing predators.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Endangered. Has disappeared from many areas of former occurrence, with ongoing decline documented in several regions. Total population perhaps under 10,000, many of these in isolated groups facing local extinction. Causes for decline include suppression of natural fires, over-cutting of pine forest in southeast.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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