Melanerpes erythrocephalus


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Name(s):
English Red-headed Woodpecker

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Butcher, G., Rosenberg, K. & Wells, J.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Bird, J., Harding, M. & Sharpe, C J
This species has shown long-term declines which have continued at a moderately rapid rate owing to loss and degradation of its habitat in recent decades. Consequently it is considered Near Threatened.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Melanerpes erythrocephalus is found in central and eastern USA, from Montana to the Atlantic coast and south to the Gulf of Mexico, and in extreme southern Canada (del Hoyo et al. 2002). The northern populations are migratory (Smith et al. 2000, del Hoyo et al. 2002), and historically its movements were influenced by nut crops from the now non-existent northern beech (Fagus) forests (Smith et al. 2000). It has experienced a steady decline of 2.5% annually since 1966 (J. Wells and K. Rosenberg in litt. 2003), with the most severe declines in Florida and the Great Lakes Plain (del Hoyo et al. 2002).

Canada; Mexico; United States
Saint Pierre and Miquelon
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Rich et al. (2004).

Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It inhabits mature lowland forest with dead trees for nesting, open areas for fly-catching and a relatively open understorey. It is strongly aggressive, particularly when defending food storage sites, and is interspecifically territorial against the Red-bellied Woodpecker M. carolinus (Reller 1972). It is omnivorous, eating a high proportion of animal matter in spring, but seeds predominate in winter. It breeds from April to September.

Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Habitat degradation, as a result of the removal of dead trees and branches in urban areas (Pulich 1988), and loss of nesting habitat to firewood cutting, clear cutting, agricultural development and river channelling in rural areas (Ehrlich et al. 1992, Melcher 1998), appears to be responsible. Collisions with moving vehicles may be a contributing factor, but persecution as a pest by farmers and utility companies is currently minimal (Smith et al. 2000, del Hoyo et al. 2002).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
It occurs in a number of protected areas, but no species-specific actions are known.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue to monitor population trends. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation. Use fire for its positive effects - prescribed burning and understorey thinning increased numbers in Arkansas by creating more open forest stands, improving foraging opportunities; however, whilst burning may create nest-snags, it also destroys existing nest-snags. Creation or maintenance of snags for nesting and roosting is of prime importance. Snags should be retained, in groups if possible. Dead branches should be retained on big trees in non-urban areas and only selectively pruned where hazardous in urban areas. Selective thinning of live trees appears to have a positive effect (e.g. removal of 50% of oak trees for prairie restoration on a reserve in Ohio immediately attracted nesting birds).

Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Melanerpes erythrocephalus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 02 September 2015.
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