Melanerpes erythrocephalus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Piciformes Picidae

Scientific Name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Name(s):
English Red-headed Woodpecker
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Non-passerines. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Berl, J., Butcher, G., Rosenberg, K. & Wells, J.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Bird, J., Harding, M., Sharpe, C.J., Westrip, 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.

Previously published Red List assessments:

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).

Countries occurrence:
Canada; Mexico; United States
Saint Pierre and Miquelon
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:4680000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Rich et al. (2004).

Trend Justification:  This species has been thought to have undergone a large and statistically significant decrease in North America (-65.5% decline over 40 years, equating to a -23.3% decline per decade; data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007); although the rate of decline over the past 3 generations may in fact be lower (Sauer et al. 2017, G. Butcher in litt. 2016)
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

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. There are low rates of nest survival, with nests with a great amount of vegetation around the nest cavity having the greatest survial rates (Berl et al. 2014). 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.

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):5.2
Movement patterns:Full Migrant

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). Mortality events due to collisions with communication towers have been reported (Longcore et al. 2013), but the overall threat from this is unknown. The introduced Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) may also be a threat as they act as competitors for nest sites with Red-headed Woodpeckers (J. Berl in litt. 2016).

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. Evaluate migration ecology and habitat use during breeding and non-breeding seasons (J. Berl in litt. 2016). 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. Additionally, retain partially dead trees with some live vegetation as these appear to be important for nesting success (e.g. Berl et al. 2014). 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); and removal of shade tolerant trees could be of particular benefit in restoring open understorey savanna or parkland (J. Berl in litt. 2016).

Amended [top]

Amended reason: Edited Population Trend Justification, Threats, Habitats and Ecology and Conservation Actions Information text. Added threats, and made edits to Conservation Actions Needed. Added references, a Contributor, and a Facilitator/Compiler.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2017. Melanerpes erythrocephalus (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22680810A118537463. . Downloaded on 26 September 2018.
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