About The Redheaded Woodpecker

Adult 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

The 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

Unlike 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.