Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)


French: Pic à ventre roux German: Carolinaspecht Spanish: Carpintero de Carolina

Picus carolinus


, 1758,

North America = South Carolina, USA


Sometimes separated with other barred congeners in Centurus. Recent molecular phylogeny found this species to form a clade with nominate M. aurifrons, with M. superciliaris as sister to this pair#R. Interbreeds to limited extent with M. aurifrons in S USA (Texas). Individual variation considerable, but insufficiently correlated to any geographical pattern to warrant recognition of races; examination of extensive series of specimens indicates that width of white bars above varies clinally, increasing from E to W. Described race zebra from W of range indistinguishable. Birds from S Florida described as race perplexus, slightly smaller and tending to show more white on upperparts, paler red on lower forehead and less white in tail, possibly sufficiently distinct to be separated; birds from E & C Texas described as race harpaceus, with greyer cheeks and throat, perhaps also warrant subspecific status; further study required. Monotypic.


SE North America from SE North Dakota, C Minnesota and N Wisconsin E to extreme S Ontario and S Massachusetts, and S through E USA (W along valleys of Missouri R and Platte R to C South Dakota and extreme NE Colorado) to coastal SC Texas and Florida.

Descriptive notes

c. 24 cm; 56–91 g. Male has pinkish to reddish-orange lower forehead, bright red upper forehead and crown to hindneck and uppermost mantle (rarely, nape or hindneck... read more


Highly vocal; calls include vibrato “churr” calls, singly or in series of up to 4 notes... read more


Mesic habitats with dead trees, including swampy woods, open deciduous or mixed coniferous woodland... read more

Food and feeding

More or less omnivorous. Animal food mostly arthropods, especially beetles, ants, Orthoptera, Hemiptera, flies, caterpillars, other larvae... read more


Late Mar to Aug; occasionally 2 or 3 broods in a season in S. Monogamous, 1 report of possible polygyny; solitary. Nest excavated by male,... read more


Mostly resident; at least during severe winters, however, N populations may withdraw to S.... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Common in most of range; the commonest picid in S of range. Densities in preferred habitats can reach almost 1 bird/ha. In Texas, one of the most... read more

Recommended citation

Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2019). Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 7 December 2019).