Red-headed Woodpecker

Melanerpes erythrocephalus

An unmistakable bird, the Red-headed Woodpecker is striking at rest and in flight, showing its colors of red, black, and white. It is one of the most aggressive members of the family and one of the most omnivorous.

Interesting Information

  • The Red-headed Woodpecker is one of only four woodpeckers known to store food, and it is the only one known to cover the stored food with wood or bark. It hides insects and seeds in cracks in wood, under bark, in fence posts, and under roof shingles. Grasshoppers are regularly stored alive, but wedged into crevices so tightly that they cannot escape.

  • In addition to attacking other birds to keep them out of its territory, the Red-headed Woodpecker is also known to remove the eggs of other species from nests and nest boxes, destroy nests, and even to enter duck-nesting boxes and puncture the duck eggs.

  • The Red-headed Woodpecker benefited from the chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease. The devastating tree diseases killed many trees and provided nest sites for the woodpeckers.

  • A group of woodpeckers has many collective nouns, including a "descent", "drumming", and "gatling" of woodpeckers.


Adult Description

  • Length Range: 22-23 cm (8.5-9.25 in)

  • Weight: 71 g (2.5 oz)

Medium-sized woodpecker.

White chest.

Bright red hood.

Sex Differences

Sexes Similar


Juvenile with gray-brown head and black bars on white secondaries. Immature with some red in gray head.


Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


  • Breeds in deciduous woodlands, especially beech or oak, river bottoms, open woods, groves of dead and dying trees, orchards, parks, open country with scattered trees, forest edges, and open wooded swamps with dead trees and stumps. Attracted to burns and recent clearings.

  • Winters in mature stands of forest, especially those with oaks.


Frequently flycatches for insects, flying out and returning to the same perch. Drills for insects in wood or bark. Occasionally visits feeders.


Most omnivorous woodpecker. Beech and oak mast, seeds, nuts, berries, fruit, insects, bird eggs, nestlings, mice.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Picidae
    Subfamily: Picinae
Genus: Melanerpes
Species: Melanerpes erythrocephalus

Similar Species


Bird Sound

Call a loud "tchur-tchur."

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution