Beak of the Week – Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

Family: Picidae
The Red-headed Woodpecker can easily be recognized by – you guessed it – its red head. In fact, the Red-headed Woodpecker’s red head is so vibrantly colored that scientists have given it a Latin name that also means ‘woodpecker with a red head’. Aside from its bright red head, the Red-headed Woodpecker is starkly patterned black and white. It is black-backed with a white front, and large white patches on the wings flash boldly in flight. Red-headed Woodpeckers do not acquire the striking adult plumage until after their first winter; young birds have a similar pattern but are speckled brown and have lighter brownish heads.
Red-headed Woodpeckers live in woodland and savanna habitats where there is lots of open space under the tree canopy. They can be found in both natural and urban settings, as long as there are enough food sources and plenty of tree cavities for nesting. Family groups of Red-headed Woodpeckers often live nearby and travel together, so if you see one, look around for others nearby.
By Aidan Healey, Conservation Technician, Houston Audubon
Photos by Greg Lavaty


Learn about more Texas birds in our Bird Gallery!

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