Red-headed Woodpecker Recovery Project
The RHWO is a native of the Eastern US, most typically seen in open woodlands and savannas. It can be found in river bottoms, groves of dead and dying trees, orchards, urban parks, open agricultural country, savanna-like grasslands with scattered trees, forest edges, and along roadsides. It avoids forests with closed canopies. It is a cavity nester, and chooses dead trees to carve out its nest.
This bird catches its prey on the wing or by foraging in dead trees or on the ground. It eats insects and other invertebrates, berries and nuts, as well as the young and eggs of other birds. It requires open areas both for fly catching and ground foraging. It stores nuts and grasshoppers by wedging them in bark crevices, fence post cracks, and other crannies.
Over roughly the past 40 years the numbers of RHWO have declined by up to 90%. The most important reason is loss of habitat. During the past several decades many of our wooded areas have become overgrown and closed, due largely to a lack of active management. The RHWO requires an open woodland or savanna area so it can effectively forage for food. The RHWO nests in dead trees or limbs, and for greatest success, those nests should be 30 feet or more above the ground. When the numbers of large, dead trees are reduced, so are the numbers of nesting sites.
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