Red-Headed Woodpecker Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Kristin Pia Hayman

Kristin taught for over 10 years in the elementary classroom. She holds a B.A. in Journalism as well as a Master's Degree in Elementary Education.

The red-headed woodpecker is a common bird, but it has some really unique characteristics. This lesson will describe the appearance and lifestyle of this very colorful bird.

The Red-Headed Woodpecker

Have you ever seen a flying checkerboard? Are you sure? No, I'm not talking about the game, I'm talking about a red-headed woodpecker! These awesome birds are sometimes called flying checkerboards because of their signature red, white, and black pattern.

Speaking of nicknames, the red-headed woodpecker is also called a white-shirt, a jellycoat, a flag bird, or a tricolored woodpecker. How confusing is that?

What Do They Look Like?

As you can imagine, the red-headed woodpecker has a bright red head. Unlike many other species of woodpecker, which only have red feathers on top, the red-headed woodpecker's entire head is a bright and bold red color. Their bodies are mainly white, and their wings are mainly black, although they each have their own slightly unique pattern. Young birds sometimes have more of a gray head and black spots on their wings.

They are medium-sized birds with large, round heads, pointed bills, and short tails. Unlike many other birds, the male and female red-headed woodpeckers look almost identical.

A red-headed woodpecker

How Do They Live?

These guys are different from many other types of woodpeckers because they catch a lot of their food in the air instead of pecking into trees for all of it. But they do still drill holes into wood with their pointed beaks, because they sometimes use this for storing nuts, berries, and captured insects. They are considered to be omnivores, which are animals that eat both meat and plants. They do eat many more nuts, seeds, and fruits than other woodpeckers. However, you can find them feasting on insects, worms, and spiders as well.

The red-headed woodpecker is found mainly in North America. They prefer open forests, farming areas, orchards, swamps, and wetlands, although it's common to see them in almost every environment, including towns. But unfortunately, like many other bird species, the population of the red-headed woodpecker has declined in the past century because so many forests are being destroyed. Because of this, they lose the protection of their homes and end up being killed or starving to death.

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