Red-bellied Woodpecker

Melanerpes carolinus
Red-bellied Woodpecker specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

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.

DC Information

Permanent resident, common in most deciduous forests in this region. Nests from mid-April to mid-June. The crown of the male is completely red, that of the female is mostly gray.

Specimen Information

The bird at the top is a female, while the bird below is a male.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC65368 Melanerpes carolinus (Red-bellied Woodpecker)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC65369 Melanerpes carolinus (Red-bellied Woodpecker)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC62777 Melanerpes carolinus (Red-bellied Woodpecker)