Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)


French: Pic à tête rouge German: Rotkopfspecht Spanish: Carpintero cabecirrojo

Picus erythrocephalus


, 1758,

America = South Carolina, USA


Possibly closer to M. portoricensis and M. herminieri than to M. formicivorus. Slightly longer-winged (more migratory) populations of W Great Plains S & W to C Colorado sometimes separated as race caurinus, supposedly also with slightly deeper yellow wash below; tone of underparts, however, varies greatly among all populations, and subspecific division considered unwarranted. Monotypic.


Breeds in extreme S Canada from S Manitoba (L Winnipeg) E to S Quebec, and in C & E USA from E Montana (E of Rocky Mts) across to Atlantic coast, S to C Colorado, C New Mexico, Gulf of Mexico and Florida.

Descriptive notes

c. 24 cm; 56–97 g. Rather small woodpecker with distinctive plumage pattern. Both sexes have head, neck and throat to upper breast red, rarely some admixed orange or... read more


Many, variable calls: aggressive “quirr” in fast series of 5–7 notes, given throughout year,... read more


Mature lowland forest with dead trees for nesting, open areas for flycatching, and relatively open... read more

Food and feeding

About two-thirds of diet is made up of animal matter in spring; seeds and other plant material predominant food in winter. One of the most... read more


Apr–Sept, mainly May–Jun; from Feb in S; up to 50% of pairs raise two broods. Monogamous, solitary; occasional trios of male... read more


N populations migrate S more or less regularly; NW populations particularly migratory. Non-breeding... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Previously considered Near Threatened. Fairly common. Breeding numbers fluctuate, probably greatest in seasons following high... read more

Recommended citation

Winkler, H., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (2019). Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus). 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 12 December 2019).