Birdhouses 101 - Redheaded Woodpecker



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Redheaded Woodpecker

About The Redheaded Woodpecker

Red-headed WoodpeckerAdult red-headed woodpeckers are very distinct. They sport a red head, neck, and throat, a white rump and under parts, and a black back, tail and wings with prominent white secondaries that can be seen during flight. Juvenile red-headed woodpeckers look similar to adult ones but have a mottled brown head and neck instead of the deep red that adults have. Their under parts are also white but their rump is marked with brown streaks. Their back, tail, and wings are also dark brown in color instead of black and their white secondaries are broken by brown lateral bars. Juveniles molt into their adult plumage starting September. Adult red-headed woodpeckers are fairly large with an average length of 7.5 to 9.5 inches.

The Redheaded Woodpecker Nesting Preferences

Red-headed woodpeckers nest in holes excavated in partially decayed trees that are usually barkless. In treeless regions they also nest on telephone poles, fence posts, open sheds, bird houses, and even old wagon wheels and water pumps. Nest cavities are found anywhere from 6 feet to 80 feet above ground. Cavity excavation takes approximately 2 weeks from start to finish. There are instances reported when red-headed woodpeckers opt to use existing cavities as their nesting place instead of digging a new one. The female red-headed woodpecker lays 4 to 8 eggs inside the cavity on a pile of wood chips. Both sexes participate in the incubation and feeding of the young. The male woodpecker usually starts to drill another hole as it gets ready to raise the next brood while the young from the first brood are still being raised by the female bird.

Building a Birdhouse For The Redheaded Woodpecker

Red-headed WoodpeckerThe recommended dimensions for red-headed woodpecker nest boxes are: 6” x 6” (floor), 14” (distance from floor to ceiling), 2” (entrance hole diameter), 11” (distance from floor to the top of entrance hole). Ventilation opening should be placed on the floor and under the roof. Wood chips need to be littered on the floor for a “natural cavity” feel. Nest boxes should be mounted out of reach, about 8 feet or higher, on trees found in a clearing or on woodland edges.

The Redheaded Woodpecker Mating Habits

The Red-headed woodpecker is a solitary creature most of the time except during breeding season when it mates and raises young. Red-headed woodpeckers are monogamous, staying true to their chosen mate for the entire breeding season.

The Redheaded Woodpecker Feeding Preferences

Red-headed WoodpeckerUnlike most woodpeckers, red-headed woodpeckers do not dig holes to find insects in infested trees. Instead they use other techniques to forage for food like flying after insects from their perch or dropping to the ground after spotting their prey. Red-headed woodpeckers are also known to steal eggs from other nests. Their diet is mainly consists of insects, spiders, earthworms, nuts, seeds, berried, fruits, and a few small mammals.

Interesting Redheaded Woodpecker Facts

The red-headed woodpecker is listed as a vulnerable species in Canada and as a threatened species in some states in the US. The species has declined in numbers due to habitat loss caused by harvesting of snags, agricultural development, channeling of rivers, a decline in farming resulting to regeneration of eastern forests, monoculture crops, the loss of small orchards, and treatment of telephone poles with creosote.

Readers Comments


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hazel  honore  12/17/2006)
i spotted a redheaded woodpecker, 12/15/06 @ my home in La. pecking a hole in the telephone pole.


Hannah Smith  4/17/2007)
Luv your site. i have seen 5 redheaded wood peckers @ my house this year. i have 2 old trees they nest in!!


Cathy Spitz  4/30/2007)
This weekend I spotted a pair of red headed woodpeckers pecking a hole in a tall pine tree near my house. 4/28/07.


karen blake  6/2/2007)
i live in fort lawn s.c., we have a redheaded woodpecker that comes to our feeder in back yard. i can hear it tapping on trees nearby also. i got a photo of it on our birdfeeder recently. so beautifull.


Jo Sutton  6/22/2007)
We have a nesting pair of redheaded woodpeckers, but contary to what I have read about their feeding habits, they are destroying my trees. I have large trees in front and back yard and they look like pin cushions. I love the beautiful birds but love my trees more!!


Angie B  9/30/2007)
We have a water bowl on our deck for the birdsa gorgeous redheaded woodpecker just made a pit stop. This is our first visit from oneit had a pattern of black & white body feathers with a crimson hed. 09/30/07 East TN :)


taylor eilers  2/4/2008)
i think the redhead is cool


Daniel Coyle  2/19/2008)
I saw a red-headed woodpecker in the woods around our house and decided to make a birdhouse for it. It has been up for a few days and no luck so far. We will keep our fingers crossed!


gretta nardelli  3/8/2008)
We a pair of red heads that have been in our front trees all day today. I love them! They told me thier names, too, Lucille Ball and Danny Bonaducci. 3-8-08. Connecticut


John Franklin  4/4/2008)
Red-headed woodpeckers are nesting in a snag near my house and feed daily on suet at my bird feeders. Ive lived here and maintained an excellent bird habitat for 25 years and this is the first red-headed woodpecker Ive ever seen here.Raleigh, NC.


P. Mitchell  4/10/2008)
Our woodpecker must have a nest in the tree that it lives in. Each morning it is at the feeder, along with the other birds. It seems to be a nervous bird, which makes me think it has eggs in the nest.


Brenda Hall  5/12/2008)
I have spotted a redheaded woodpecker at our suet feeder and has come to our deck to feed, just beautiful. I snapped a few photos of him to prove Ive seen him, since he was hard to identify. I found him finally listed on the endagered species list! We are so lucky to have him!


DONNA H.  5/28/2008)
I JUST RECENTLY RETURNED FROM TABLEROCK LAKE @ INDIAN POINT RESORT AND HAD THE PLEASURE OF SEEING THIS BIRD...IT WAS REALLY A SIGHT TO SEE. THE MORE I LOOKED THE MORE I SAW. THERE WERE APPROX. 4 - 6 OF THEM FLYING WITHIN A HUNDRED FEET OF ONE ANOTHER. IT WAS SUCH A PRETTY BIRD TO WATCH! IN FLIGHT THEY ARE VERY PRETTY!LOTS OF TREES @ THIS LOCATION! I WILL HAVE MY CAMERA READY NEXT TIME!


Elizabeth M.  7/18/2008)
I spotted two red-headed woodpeckers a few weeks ago and have been trying to identify them since. And, I finally did only to find out that they are an endangered breed. I am so sad to know that, but so glad that they are living in the dead tree near our house. For some time, I have been very upset with the neighbors for keeping that tree in their yard, but now I am so happy because they truly are beautiful to watch!


Cat Cole  )
We live in Southwest Virginia and just experienced a carousel of red headed woodpeckers with juveniles. There were at 4 very large adults with 9 juveniles. We watched them fly from tree to tree and eat from the stumps near our house. Magnificent birds! I have seen one or two each year, but never this type of array.


gerry morin  )
I just noticed a hole in my siding which appears to be made by a woodpecker. What do I do?? I have read a little about it and I'm a little worried. What's the best way to proceed? Moth balls, red pepper, sealing the hole?


Scott King  )
We have about 5 living immediately around our house. Today, I spotted two young ones with brown heads. One adult lives in a dead tree right off our back porch. I loaded a video of his yesterday on YouTube if you would like to meet him. We have adopted him into our family. Here's the URL to Our family's Redheaded Woodpecker. Sorry but this site won't allow me to put in the URL. So, search redheaded woodpecker. It loaded under YouTube Channel- Cutlery News Journal. I'm not a bird watcher but have become fascinated with them now.


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