Melanerpes erythrocephalus

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

Wow! Catch sight of this beautiful creature in your yard and you may have to remind yourself to breathe! Many woodpeckers are composites of red, white, and black. This one is painted in the boldest of brushstrokes. The entire head, neck, throat, and upper breast are colored in bright, crimson red. The underparts are a pure snow-white. The back, wings, and tail are glossy black, counterpointed with broad, white wing bars. Certainly the Red-headed Woodpecker is an example of the magnificent beauty to be found in the natural world around us!

When you look as good as a Red-headed Woodpecker, there is no reason not to share the beauty. This species is an example of sexual monomorphism: the guys and gals look the same. While a check of the range map in your field guide will show this species inhabits much of the eastern two-thirds of the United States, they are not a common bird in most areas. Historically, Red-headed Woodpecker populations have expanded and contracted dramatically. In recent years the abundance of the species has been in a declining cycle. We can all hope for the day when they will again present themselves to us regularly. Whether the population is scarce or abundant, it is always true that Red-headed Woodpecker wander widely in search of food.

Diet includes many other foods including various seeds, grains, berries, and insects. Food stocks are cached (hidden for future use). When foraging for insect prey, Red-heads will sometimes “fly-catch.” They will sally forth from a fencepost perch to catch in insect in mid-air or on the ground, and fly back to the perch to consume the snack.

When it comes to seeds, they are especially fond of corn products. Aspen Song® Nut & Fruit Woodpecker Mix has a unique form of corn included in it called steam-crimped corn. It is particularly relished by both Red-headed and Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Winter diet is mostly the seeds and nuts of various hardwood trees. At this time of year the high inclusion rate of tree nuts in Aspen Song® Nut & Fruit Woodpecker Mix will suit their needs nicely.

Populations seem to currently be low. Red-heads range extensively in their search for food. Put out Aspen Song® Nut & Fruit Woodpecker Mix, enjoy the more common woodpecker species, and hope for the day this beautiful creature finds your feeder!

Reference: Smith, Kimberly G., James H. Withgott and Paul G. Rodewald. 2000. Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology.