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Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)


There is no overview information available for that species.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations.

Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Melanerpes erythrocephalus in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC/M
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS3B
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

This document contains identification and life history information for Red-headed Woodpecker. It also describes how to screen projects for potential impact to this species, lists avoidance measures, and provides general management guidance.

Red-headed Woodpecker Species Guidance [PDF]



Red-headed Woodpecker

Though still widespread and locally common in southern and central Wisconsin, Red-headed Woodpecker populations have experienced declines in recent decades. This species is strongly associated with oak savannas.

Photo © Tom Schultz.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Photo © Dave Menke.

Wildlife Action Plan

Note: The information presented here comes from the 2005 Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan. The 2015 revision has been submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for approval. Our website content will be updated when the plan has been approved.

Native community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Red-headed Woodpecker. Only natural communities for which Red-headed Woodpecker is "significantly" (score=3) or "moderately" (score=2) associated are shown. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Red-headed Woodpecker. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Red-headed Woodpecker occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

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Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

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Conservation actions

  • Conduct research on the potential negative effects of automobile collisions on populations.
  • Experiment with management regimes that both regenerate oaks in southern forests while maintaining areas of older forests, including various harvest techniques and the use of prescribed fire.
  • Manage deer populations at a level that allows for oak regeneration.
  • Red-headed Woodpeckers are not area sensitive and could be managed for in smaller savanna restorations on private land.
  • There is a large need to control exotic, invasive shrubs.
  • This would be a good species and habitat to target for a large, private lands cooperative effort.

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Threats and issues

  • Red-headed Woodpeckers do best in savanna-like woodlands or open oak woodlands. Most of these forests have been allowed to proceed through successional changes due to lack of fire or management for other objectives, and they now support denser forests of oak mixed with other hardwood species. Dead trees that provide sites for cavity nesters are now often removed from private woodlots or yards.
  • Red-headed Woodpeckers fly low near roads and may be subject to automobile mortality.
  • European Starlings compete with this and other cavity-nesters for nest sites in and around homes and farms.
  • Invasive plants such as buckthorn, etc. have destroyed many savanna-like habitats and will affect most oak woodlands in the state. Red-headed Woodpeckers prefer herbaceous ground cover as they often feed on the ground.

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Last revised: Friday, August 26, 2016