Red-headed Woodpecker

Ontario's forests and plains of are growing silent...

Photo by Michael Hogan

The Red-headed Woodpecker, once common in southeastern Canada, has and continues to, decline steadily throughout its range. One of the largest declines is occurring in Ontario, where the population is showing a 60% decline over the last 20 years. Despite such declines, or perhaps due to, little is known about Red-headed Woodpeckers. Indeed there are no recorded studies of the species in the province (or in Canada), nor is there is a recovery plan (yet). 

Historically, the Red-headed Woodpecker occupied savannas and open deciduous forests throughout southern Canada and east-central United States. Long ago, the settlement of Europeans in North America led to massive losses of these habitats. Yet a certain crimson-headed bird found that settlement towns and the resulting countryside was much to its liking (especially the new source of food settlers brought in the guise of planted fruit and nut trees!). This trend of flexibility continues today as Red-heads may be found nesting in a variety of areas with large dead and dying deciduous trees such as town centers, golf courses, animal pastures, cemeteries, and woodlots. 

So here comes the tricky question: Why is such a seemingly adaptable species in such trouble? 

To solve the mystery of the disappearance of this woodpecker, we need your help!

Very little is known about Red-headed Woodpeckers, including where they are and how they are surviving (or not). The Red-headed Woodpecker Conservation Group is spearheading an effort to learn more about this unique species in Ontario to prevent their disappearance from the province. Some important questions concerning these feisty birds are:

  • Where do they nest?
  • Do different habitat features help ensure successful breeding?
  • Are they facing competition from other cavity-nesting species such as Red-bellied Woodpeckers?
  • Are they limited by what they eat? 
We've been progress since our start in 2010, but we still have a long way to go. Reports detailing location and behaviour are supremely helpful and much appreciated! In fact, its the biggest helping hand that we could hope for, so please don't be shy to contact us to share your interest and your observations. We would especially love to hear from residents in or near Northumberland or Elgin counties. Contact us at or visit our forum page.

Photo by Michael Hogan

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