- Common Name:
- Red-Bellied Woodpecker
- Scientific Name:
- Melanerpes carolinus
- Length: 9 inches
- IUCN Red List Status:
- Least concern
- Current Population Trend:
The red-bellied woodpecker is the familiar zebra-backed woodpecker of eastern woodlands and towns. Monotypic (or up to 4 weakly defined ssp. sometimes recognized). Length 9".
All red-bellied woodpeckers show a black-and-white barred back, white uppertail coverts, grayish white underparts, black chevrons on the lower flanks and undertail coverts, and barred central tail feathers. In flight a small white patch shows at the base of the primaries. Adult male: entire crown, from bill to nape, is red; there is a suffusion of pink or red on the center of the belly. Adult female: red on the head is limited to nasal tufts (just above the bill) and nape; wash of color on the belly is paler, less extensive. In rare individual females, the nape and nasal tufts can be yellow-orange instead of red. Juvenile: resembles adults but duller, with red nasal tuft and nape patches lacking; bill is brownish (black in adults).
Compare with the golden-fronted woodpecker, which has solid black central rectrices, lacks pink or red on the belly, and has a different pattern of color on the head.
In breeding season, the red-bellied gives a rolling churrr; it also gives also a conversational chiv chiv; softer than calls of the golden-fronted woodpecker. Drum: a simple roll of up to a second, with about 19 beats per second.
Status and Distribution
Common in the Southeast, uncommon to fairly common in the Northeast, Midwest, and Great Plains. Year-round: Pine and hardwood forests, open woodlands, suburbs and parks. Small populations exist west to southeastern North Dakota, central South Dakota, and northeastern Colorado. Dispersal: not migratory, but at least some individuals in northern range withdraw southward in fall. Vagrant: wanders casually north to central Ontario, southern Quebec, Maine, and the maritime provinces of Canada and west to eastern New Mexico; accidental in southeastern Wyoming, Idaho, and Saskatchewan.
Generally stable. The red-bellied has expanded its range northward in the Great Lakes region and New England over the last century and is also expanding northwestward in the Great Plains.