Red-headed Woodpecker


red-headed woodpeckerIt's called the Melanerpes erythrocephalus, but for everyday purposes, it's known as the red-headed woodpecker. Fanciers of this interesting Oklahoma bird can see them all winter in parts of the state and during the summer statewide.

As the name implies, adults have bright red heads, necks and upper breasts, but immature birds have buff-brown heads and necks. Its back is entirely black with contrasting white plumage on the chest, belly and rump. The wings are also black with a bold contrasting white patch.

Red-headed woodpeckers typically forage alone or in small groups. In the winter they are often found in nut-bearing trees suck as oaks and hickories across southern Canada and the eastern-central United States, including Oklahoma. The number of red-headed woodpeckers that winter in Oklahoma varies greatly depending upon acorn production and weather. In late summer month, this species can be found statewide.
This attractive woodpecker feed on seeds, nuts, fruits and insects, such as grasshoppers and others. Acorns are important part of their diet and can affect the abundance of red-headed woodpeckers in years of poor mast crops. On the other hand, years with good mast production tens to show better numbers of birds. Acorns and other foods are often stashed or "cached" in tree cavities. May to July encompasses the nesting season for red-headed woodpeckers, when they inhabit open areas broken up by mature trees. They also can be seen along creek and river bottoms.

Females often nest in dead trees about two feet deep on beds of wood chips. They lay about five eggs which the male helps incubate. It is believed that eggs are incubated for about two weeks and the young stay within the nest for about a month.

Red-headed woodpeckers are one of 11 woodpecker species found in Oklahoma and one of 25 found in North America. Though woodpeckers are one of the easiest families of birds to identify and though woodpeckers are quire common in Oklahoma some species can be difficult to distinguish from others. IN the case of the red-headed woodpecker, it may be confused with red-bellied woodpeckers, also found in Oklahoma. However, the red-bellied woodpeckers lack the bold white breast, wing and rump plumage of the red headed woodpecker.

Birds like the red-headed woodpecker and other woodpeckers are count annually in the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Winter Bird Feeder Survey. In 2007, nearly 1,700 woodpeckers were counted in the survey, 104 of which were red-headed woodpeckers.