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BIRD OF THE WEEK
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Melanerpes erythrocephalus
POPULATION: 1.6 million
HABITAT: Open savannas and woodlands and lowland forests. Also orchards, pastures, wetlands, and suburban parks with widely spaced trees and standing snags.
The Red-headed Woodpecker is a charismatic and colorful species, recognizable to even the most casual birder. Its eye-catching plumage gives this woodpecker a number of whimsical nicknames, including flag bird, flying checker-board, jellycoat, patriotic bird, and shirt-tail bird. They are noisy as well as colorful, vocalizing with a variety of harsh “churrs” and rising “queery” calls.
This woodpecker’s preferred habitat — open groves with abundant snags for nesting and roosting — puts it in direct competition with introduced cavity-nesting birds such as European Starlings. But the main driver of Red-headed Woodpecker declines is habitat loss caused by development of bottomland forest and suppression of fires found naturally in some forest ecosystems.