Red-bellied Woodpecker

Melanerpes carolinus

Summary 7

The Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) is a medium-sized woodpecker of the Picidae family. It breeds in southern Canada and the northeastern United States, ranging as far south as Florida and as far west as Texas. Its common name is somewhat misleading, as the most prominent red part of its plumage is on the head; the Red-headed Woodpecker, however, is another species that is a rather close relative but looks quite different.

Melanerpes carolinus 8

A medium-sized (9-10 ½ inches) woodpecker, the Red-bellied Woodpecker is most easily identified by its black-and-white striped back, pale flanks, and pale buff-brown face. Ironically, this woodpecker has very little red on its belly, being visibly red on its head alone. Male Red-bellied Woodpeckers have a red forehead, crown, and neck, whereas females only have red on the neck. This species may be distinguished from the Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus), another woodpecker with black, white, and red plumage, by that species’ entirely red head and face. The Red-bellied Woodpecker inhabits much of the eastern United States and southern Canada north to the Great Lakes and west to the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains. Generally, this species is non-migratory in most parts of its range. However, northern Red-headed Woodpeckers may move short distances south in harsh winters when temperatures and food supplies become too low. Red-headed Woodpeckers inhabit a variety of deciduous, evergreen, or mixed woodland habitats. This species may also be found in more built-up areas, and can sometimes be found in suburban backyards and large urban parks. Red-headed Woodpeckers primarily eat seeds, nuts, and insects, although this species tends to dig into bark less than most other woodpecker species, preferring to take insects from the surface. In appropriate habitat, this species may be seen climbing trees and branches head-first while foraging for food. When moving from tree to tree, this species undertakes short, undulating flights through the canopy. This species is primarily active during the day.

Threat Status: Least concern

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  5. (c) Biodiversity Heritage Library, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  6. Ken Thomas, no known copyright restrictions (public domain),
  7. (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA),
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