Red-bellied Woodpecker Habits

The drumming in early spring signals that the male Red-bellied Woodpecker is claiming territory and hopes to court a mate for a season of nesting and raising young.


The male measures about 9 inches in length with a wingspread of about 17 inches. He has bands of black and white on his back referred to as a "ladder back."

Male Red-Bellied Woodpecker on Pole


The crown and nape of the male are red. The breast and face are a dull gray.

The female Red-bellied Woodpecker is similar to the male but has red only on the nape and above the bill. The crown is gray.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is named for a small quarter-sized patch of reddish tint on the belly, sometimes difficult to see but easier if you watch them at your feeders.

The young are similar to the adults but with a brown crown.

Not a rare Woodpecker but habitat destruction causes some decline along with non-native species such as European Starlings.

Mating and Breeding Courtship Habits

Similar to all woodpeckers, the Red-bellied uses drumming as the primary source for attracting and communicating with potential mates.

This habit of drumming may be done on hollow limbs, gutters, siding, utility poles, or any other material that it finds resonates well for its needs.

Much to the dismay of the person who wishes to "sleep in" on weekends or the night shifter.

Female Red-bellied Woodpecker on Tree Limb

Picture of Female Red-bellied Woodpecker

Considered monogamous throughout the breeding season. Some may form pair bonds lasting over several seasons but are not considered as mating for life.

An unusual part of courtship with this woodpecker species is mutual tapping.

Generally done at a potential nesting cavity, one bird will enter as the other stays outside and each will take turns tapping to the other.

Breeding activity occurs at the time of pair formation which is as early as January-February. Eggs are laid in late April in most areas.

In Southern states such as Alabama and Texas as late as July.

Feeding on Suet

Most late nests seen in northern states are most likely renesting attempts due to the failure of the first nest. Florida has had egg laying as late as August.

Red-bellied Woodpecker Nesting Habits

Both males and females will build their nest in a tree, (living or dead) a utility pole, or take over another species of woodpecker home.

These birds will also nest in man-made birdhouses

The female will lay 4 - 5 completely white eggs. One egg is laid each day until the clutch is complete.

Incubation (gestation period - not the correct term for birds) is done by both males and females after the last egg is laid and will last about 12 - 14 days.

The baby birds will fly from the nest (fledge) in about 24 - 27 days after hatching.

In the north, a single brood may be raised each season while in the south two and even (rarely) three broods may be raised.

Red-bellied Woodpecker Call

Feeding Habits - Diet What they Eat

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are not rare and will readily visit winter birdfeeders if suet is offered.

In Spring, a fruit feeder with orange halves will bring them closeup.

These Woodpeckers also cache food. Storing nuts in crevices of tree bark for later consumption.

Other items that can be offered at the home feeding station are peanut butter, sunflower seed, and cracked corn.

In the wild, Red-bellied Woodpeckers eat a diet of mainly vegetable matter consisting of a variety of tree nuts and sometimes feed on beetles, and insect larvae.

Are Red-bellied Woodpeckers Rare

East of the Rockies, the Red-bellied Woodpecker is widespread and fairly common in backyards with older trees.

In southern states, this woodpecker has been around a long time and is spreading northward.

Attract More Woodpeckers With These Great Products
Attract More Woodpeckers With These Products

Kinds of Woodpeckers

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