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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Red-bellied Woodpecker -- Melanerpes carolinus

RANGE: Resident from southeastern Minnesota, south-central Wisconsin, southern Michigan, southern Ontario, central New York, and Massachusetts south to central Texas, the Gulf Coast, and southern Florida, and west to Iowa, eastern Nebraska, western Kansas, central Oklahoma, and north-central Texas.

STATUS: Common. Range has been expanding westward along the river valleys of the Great Plains.

HABITAT: Inhabits deciduous and coniferous forests of the southeastern United States, especially mature woodlands with dead and broken-topped trees. Also frequents farm woodlots, riparian forests, and orchards.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Mature woodlands with dead trees or trees with large dead limbs for nesting.

NEST: Nests are excavated in a variety of sites, including trees, stumps, dead limbs, and poles. May nest in buildings or in nest boxes usually less than 40 feet above the ground. Prefers relatively soft deciduous tree species and dead trees or those with decayed stubs.

FOOD: Eats mostly vegetable material including fruit, nuts, poison ivy seeds, pine seeds, and juniper berries, but also feeds on some wood-boring insect larvae found in dead wood.

REFERENCES: Beal 1911, DeGraff et al. 1980, Johnsgard 1979, Reller 1972.

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