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Red-headed Woodpecker
Photos © Kim Hosen, Hilton Head Island, August 2008

Red-headed Woodpecker
Melanerpes erythrocephalus
Order - Piciformes; Family - Picidae

A permanent resident of Northern Virginia, the Red-headed Woodpecker has a completely bright red head and neck of this woodpecker.

Up to ten inches long, it is mostly black, with a white spot on each wings and a white rump patch. Its throat and undersides are also white. The juveniles resemble the adults but are have grey heads.

Throughout the eastern half of the US and nearby Canada, the Red-headed Woodpecker inhabits open woods, orchards, river valleys, swamps, beaver ponds and forest edges where there are dead trees.

It feeds on flying insects, seeds, sap and berries, and also collects acorns and other nuts, hiding them in tree holes (even the insects!).

The male and female pair excavate a nesting hole in a dead tree or branch, or may use another woodpecker’s hole. They can raise two broods of several nestlings in one year.

The species is listed as endangered in some parts of the US due to habitat loss, including the removal of dead trees for nesting, reforestation of open areas and other changes to the environment, as well as to possible competition with starlings for the nest holes.

Although few of these woodpeckers are generally seen in Northern Virginia, sightings in 2010 increased dramatically thoughout the region.