Web Analytics
The Ivory Bill·Birds·Cavity Makers

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus

Red-bellied woodpecker perched on a tree branch

Red-bellied Woodpeckers breed in deciduous and mixed forests in the eastern United States from late April to early July. They are commonly found in hardwood forests, wooded swamps, and suburban areas, which are characterized by a mix of mature trees and open spaces where insects and fruits are abundant during the breeding season.

They forage in trees, shrubs, and on the ground for beetles, ants, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and spiders. They may also feed on acorns, nuts, and fruits such as berries and grapes.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers have a diverse feeding behavior that includes gleaning insects from bark, drilling into wood to extract larvae, and foraging on the ground. Their strong bills and long, sticky tongues are well adapted for capturing insects and consuming a variety of plant materials.

Courtship involves a combination of drumming, calling, and mutual displays. Males and females engage in a behavior called “mutual tapping,” where they tap on tree trunks and branches in a rhythmic pattern. This is often accompanied by vocalizations and the exchange of food items.

Both males and females excavate dead or decaying trees, often in oak, maple, or pine trees. These cavities are typically located between 3 to 15 meters above the ground. They prefer trees in forested areas with a mix of large, mature trees and younger growth. Some of the wood chips created during excavation remain in the cavity.

They sometimes nest in bird houses if they are designed with appropriate dimensions. See Red-Bellied Woodpecker Bird House Plans. Bird houses be mounted on trees or posts at a height of 3 to 6 meters in wooded habitats, parks, or suburban areas.

Egg laying occurs in mid to late spring, with the female laying 4 to 5 white eggs. Incubation lasts about 12 days and is shared by both parents. Upon hatching, both parents feed the chicks a diet of insects and fruits.

Chicks learn to forage under the guidance of adults, who demonstrate how to find and extract food. As they develop, chicks practice pecking and gleaning techniques but remain vulnerable to predators and adverse weather conditions.

Chick fledging occurs about 24 to 27 days after hatching. Continued adult guidance is crucial as fledglings refine their foraging skills. Their diet gradually expands to include a wider variety of insects, nuts, and fruits.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are generally non-migratory, though some northern populations may move southward in winter. They tend to remain within their breeding range year-round.