|Conservation status||Once very common throughout the east, but has been decreasing in numbers for years, and recent surveys show that this trend is continuing. Reasons for decline not well known, probably include loss of potential nest sites (owing to cutting of dead trees), competition with starlings for nest cavities. When swooping out to catch insects in flight, often struck by cars along roadsides.|
|Habitat||Groves, farm country, orchards, shade trees in towns, large scattered trees. Avoids unbroken forest, favoring open country or at least clearings in the woods. Forest edges, orchards, open pine woods, groves of tall trees in open country are likely habitats. Winter habitats influenced by source of food in fall, such as acorns or beechnuts.|
Opportunistic, with several foraging techniques. Flies out from a perch to catch insects in the air or on ground; climbs tree trunks and major limbs; clambers about in outer branches; hops on ground. Gathers acorns, beechnuts, and other nuts in fall, storing them in holes and crevices, then feeding on them during winter.
4-5, sometimes 3-7, rarely more. White. Incubation is by both sexes (with male incubating at night), 12-13 days. Young: Are fed by both parents, and leave the nest at about 27-31 days. Pairs may be starting on a 2nd nesting attempt while still feeding the fledglings from the first; 2nd brood may be raised in same nest but more often in new cavity, freshly excavated. 1 or 2 broods per year.
Are fed by both parents, and leave the nest at about 27-31 days. Pairs may be starting on a 2nd nesting attempt while still feeding the fledglings from the first; 2nd brood may be raised in same nest but more often in new cavity, freshly excavated. 1 or 2 broods per year.
Omnivorous. Perhaps the most omnivorous of woodpeckers. Diet includes wide variety of insects, also spiders, earthworms, nuts, seeds, berries, wild and cultivated fruit, rarely small rodents. Sometimes eats eggs and nestlings of other birds. Also sometimes eats bark.
Male establishes territory and advertises there with calling, drumming. In resident birds, male's winter territory may become breeding territory. Nest: Male's winter roosting cavity may be used for nest, or new cavity may be excavated (mostly by male); female indicates acceptance of site by tapping on tree. Nest cavity is in bare dead tree or dead limb, from a few feet above ground to 65' or higher.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Some are probably permanent residents but others, especially from northern and western areas, travel to wintering areas in southeastern states. Migrates by day. A short-distance migrant, not known to occur south of United States.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsA loud churr-churr and yarrow-yarrow-yarrow.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Red-headed Woodpecker
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
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Climate threats facing the Red-headed 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.