Red-Headed vs Red-Bellied Woodpecker: What’s the Difference?

Updated: Jan. 08, 2024

Did you see a red-headed woodpecker or a red-bellied woodpecker? Learn how to tell these woodpeckers with a similar name apart.

You spotted a woodpecker with a red colored head. Which woodpecker did you see? Study these clues so you can tell the difference between a red-headed woodpecker vs a red-bellied woodpecker.

Discover 14 mind-blowing woodpecker facts you should know.

Red-Headed Woodpecker

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A red-headed woodpecker clings to a tree trunk in winter.

The red-headed woodpecker is a stunning, medium-sized bird with bold black and white coloring, like a checkerboard.

  • Head Unmistakably red, covering the entire head and neck on both males and females.
  • Body White underneath and black on top, with a thick white wing stripe.
  • Range Year-round in the East and the southern plains, spreading to northern plains and southern Canada in the breeding season.
  • Call Very high-pitched and hoarse tchur.

Check out the 8 best woodpecker bird feeders for your yard.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

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A red-bellied woodpecker has bold striping on its back.

The red-bellied woodpecker confuses many new birders because this species also has red coloring on its head. Red coloring on the belly is harder to see at first glance.

  • Head Males have a red mohawk while females have a red patch on the front and back of the head.
  • Body Pale red-tinted belly with zebra-print wings and back.
  • Range Similar to red-headeds, but nonmigratory and extending slightly more south. Found in Florida and the Gulf Coast year-round.
  • Call A buzzy, high-pitched kwirr or churr.

Meet the large, red crowned pileated woodpecker.

Almost Two of a Kind

Bnbbyc17 Ricard FlemattiCourtesy Ricard Flematti
A red-headed woodpecker flying away from its nesting cavity

While there are key differences in these birds, there are also notable similarities. These two types of woodpeckers are virtually the same size, have striking red accents, fly in the same undulating pattern and catch insects by drilling into dead or decaying trees.

Next, learn all about the white-headed woodpecker and how to tell the difference between a downy vs a hairy woodpecker.