Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Melanerpes carolinus

Status: Not Listed

Classification: Bird


Red-bellied woodpeckers have a black-and-white striped coloration on their back and wings that forms a zebra-like pattern. The neck, chest, and rump are white, and the belly is white with a red tinge. The faint reddish color on the belly can be hidden by white feathers, making identification of this bird a bit of a challenge.

One of the most common mistakes when identifying this bird is confusing red-bellied woodpeckers and red-headed woodpeckers. Both of these woodpeckers have red on their heads, but red-bellied woodpeckers have red on the top and back of the head. The face, chin and cheeks are white. Red-headed woodpeckers, on the other hand, have an entirely red head, including the chin and face.


Red-bellied woodpeckers are common in woodlands, wetlands, and suburban trees throughout the eastern half of the continental United States. They can often be seen on the branches or trunks of medium or large trees, on which they pick at bark.


These woodpeckers eat mostly insects, spiders, and other arthropods. Plant materials like acorns, nuts, pinecones, seeds, and fruits are also part of its diet. It also may occasionally eat lizards, nesting birds, and minnows.


Red-bellied woodpeckers call using rolling "chirr" or "qurr" sounds. They also make a repetitive twang-like "cha-cha-cha."

Life History

A red-bellied woodpecker lays its eggs on a bed of wood chips from an excavated nest cavity. They build their nests in dead trees, dead limbs, or fences. A pair of woodpeckers may nest in the same tree year after year.


Red-bellied woodpeckers are not considered threatened. Over the last hundred years, the birds have actually extended their breeding range farther north.

Fun Fact

Red-bellied woodpeckers often have to defend their nests and eggs from European starlings that try to overtake the nest.


The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

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