Red-headed Woodpecker

Melanerpes erythrocephalus


Infrequently Seen

Red-headed Woodpeckers are infrequently seen at Monticello Park. In recent years, they have become more common in the Washington metro area, and a few have briefly visited Monticello. You have a much better chance to see one in Alexandria at Huntley Meadows or Fort Hunt.

Where to See Them in the Park

The few sightings of Red-headed Woodpeckers have been on the ridge and in trees on both sides of the dog exercise area. There is no best place to look for them in the park.

Physical Description


Red-headed Woodpecker Adult
Adult - Photo by William Young

Adult Red-headed Woodpeckers are difficult to confuse with any other species. They have a bright red head and a black back with a big white patch in the middle. The sexes are similar. They are the same size as Red-bellied Woodpeckers, whom some people mistakenly call Red-headed Woodpeckers because they have a red cap and nape. The two species do not look similar.

Red-headed Woodpecker Adult
Adult - Photo by Michael Pollack

Red-headed Woodpecker Adult
Adult - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Red-headed Woodpecker Adult
Adult - Photo by Ashley Bradford

The underparts and inner half of the underwings of the Red-headed Woodpecker are white.

Red-headed Woodpecker Adult
Composite image of an adult collecting acorns - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Red-headed Woodpecker Juvenile
Juvenile - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Red-headed Woodpecker Juvenile
Juvenile - Photo by William Higgins

Juveniles have a brown head, and the feathers on the back appear to be dark gray rather than pitch black. Some of the feathers making up the white patch on the back have black marks.

Red-headed Woodpecker Juvenile
Composite image of a juvenile in flight, collecting acorns - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Vocalizations

One call of Red-headed Woodpeckers is high-pitched and raspy. They also utter a variety of rattles and churring noises.

Hear the vocalizations and sounds of the Red-headed Woodpecker.

Notes

The Red-headed Woodpecker is closely related to the Acorn Woodpecker found in western North America. The Acorn Woodpecker was the inspiration for Woody Woodpecker. Walter Lantz, Woody's creator, was on his honeymoon in northern California, and an Acorn Woodpecker persistently banged on his cabin. If you listen to the fourth call of the Acorn Woodpecker on the Cornell Lab site, it sounds like Woody.

Origin of Names

Common Names: Red-headed from the red head. Woodpecker because they peck wood.
Genus Name: Melanerpes means "black creeper".
Species Name: Erythrocephalus means "red-headed".

Red-headed Woodpecker video footage

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