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2011-06-27
The Red-headed Woodpecker - a threatened species in some states in the US.


The Red-headed Woodpecker - Melanerpes erythrocephalus - is strikingly tri-colored, with a black back and tail and a red head and neck and whit underparts. The wings are black with white secondary remiges. Adult males and females are identical in plumage. Juveniles are similarly shaded, but are mottled with brown.

It is one of the most aggressive members of the family and one of the most omnivorous.  These birds fly to catch insects in the air or on the ground. They forage on trees or gather and store nuts. About two thirds of their diet is made up of plant matter.

They nest in a cavity in a dead tree, utility pole, or a dead part of a tree that is between 8 and 80 feet (2.5 to 25 m) above the ground. They lay four to seven eggs in early May which are incubated for two weeks. Under ideal conditions two broods can be raised in a single nesting season. They leave for winter quarters by late October. Some southern birds are  permanent residents.

Once abundant, populations have seriously declined since 1966 due to increased nest site competition from European Starling and the removal of dead trees. Many North Eastern States no longer have nesting red-headed woodpeckers. They are listed as a vulnerable species in Canada and as a threatened species in some states in the US. The species has declined in numbers due to habitat loss caused by harvesting of snags, agricultural development, channeling of rivers, a decline in farming resulting to regeneration of eastern forests, monoculture crops, the loss of small orchards, and treatment of telephone poles with creosote.

 


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