Welcoming Red-Headed Woodpeckers to Your Yard: A Guide to Attracting These Beautiful Birds

Wednesday, January 3, 2024
If you're a backyard birder or bird enthusiast, you've likely heard of the elusive Red-headed Woodpecker. They are an endangered species that has held a place on the Species at Risk in Ontario list since the Endangered Species Act took effect in 2008. These striking birds are known for their distinctive appearance and lively personalities. Considering their endangered status, we're providing valuable tips on how to create an inviting environment to attract them to your yard while also supporting them as a species. 

But first, what threatens them? 

A loss of nesting sites and suitable habitats, including competing with European Starlings (an introduced species) for nesting sites, collisions with man made structures, and exposure to unnatural predators such as domestic cats are all factors in their decline. 

Red-headed Woodpecker. Photo by Shayna Hartley.

Red-headed woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) are medium-sized birds that feature a stunning crimson head,. Their striking appearance and energetic behavior make them a favorite among birdwatchers. These woodpeckers are also beneficial to have around, as they help control insect populations by foraging on pests such as beetles, caterpillars, and ants.

Habitat and Range:

They can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, orchards, and open areas with scattered trees. They are distributed across North America, with their range extending from the eastern parts of the United States to the Great Plains and into southern Canada.

Creating an Inviting Habitat:

To attract red-headed woodpeckers to your yard, it's essential to create a habitat that meets their specific needs. Here are some tips to make your space more attractive to these beautiful birds:

  • Provide Suitable Nesting Sites: Red-headed woodpeckers typically nest in tree cavities. You can install nest boxes with the right dimensions (about 7 inches by 7 inches floor size and 15-24 inches tall) to mimic natural nesting sites. Otherwise, keep appropriate trees on your property if able. 
Red-headed Woodpecker nesting cavity. Photo by Kristen Martyn.
  • Offer a Varied Diet: Red-headed woodpeckers have a diverse diet that includes insects, fruits, and seeds. To attract them to your yard, offer suet, suet blends, Bark Butter, peanuts, tree nuts, mealworms, sunflower, sunflower chips, cracked corn, fruits, they even like nectar. Try planting fruit-bearing trees like cherry, apple, or crabapple. 
  • Provide Perching and Foraging Areas: These woodpeckers are adept at catching insects on the wing, so having open spaces with scattered trees or dead branches for perching and foraging is essential. Keep your yard diverse with a mix of vegetation, both tall and short, to attract a variety of insects can help. 
  • Maintain a Water Source: Red-headed woodpeckers need a water source for drinking and bathing. Install a bird bath or a shallow dish with fresh water to make your yard more appealing to these feathered friends. Heated bird baths are a great option for winter and are especially attractive when other water sources are frozen. 
  • Minimize Pesticide Use: Red-headed woodpeckers rely on insects for a significant portion of their diet. Minimize the use of pesticides in your yard to ensure a healthy population of insects for these birds to feed on.

Creating a bird-friendly environment in your yard is a rewarding experience, and attracting red-headed woodpeckers adds a touch of brilliance. By providing suitable nesting sites, a diverse and abundant food supply, and a safe and inviting habitat, you can turn your backyard into a haven for these stunning woodpeckers. You can learn more about their conservation status, recovery strategy, and even report a sighting on their ontario.ca profile HERE. 

Enjoy these beautiful birds! 




No comments:

Post a Comment