Bird of the Week, June 24, 2011
Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker by Greg Lavaty

The striking Red-headed Woodpecker is most often found in savanna-like areas of widely scattered trees with grassy understories. It especially favors oak savannas, beech woods, river bottoms, and groves of dead and dying trees, which provide nesting, roosting, and foraging sites.


This species is highly omnivorous, consuming acorns, seeds, fruit, and insects, bird eggs and nestlings, and even small rodents. It is one of only four woodpecker species known to store food, caching future meals under bark or shingles, in wood crevices, or in fence posts.


The Red-headed Woodpecker is declining over much of its range, mainly due to lack of suitable habitat. Savanna-like habitats have become increasingly rare due to decades of fire suppression, and in places where they do occur, such as woodlots and parks, habitat is made less than ideal by removal of snags (dead trees), since those can sometimes pose a human hazard.


Loss of habitat continues to be the biggest threat to this colorful woodpecker.  Woodland restoration efforts should focus on increasing suitable habitat, such as projects underway in the Central Hardwoods Joint Venture.


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Photo: Red-headed Woodpecker by Greg Lavaty; Range Map: NatureServe