Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) : Barry Kent Mackay

The Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) has been listed as a “species of least concern) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, but here in Ontario, it is listed as a species of concern, meaning it could be on the way to becoming an endangered species.  Assuredly there are many fewer of them than there used to be. A lot of woodpecker species have red on the head and are sometimes mistaken for this species, but it alone among North American woodpeckers has a solid red head in contrast to the boldly patterned black and white body and wings, although the Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber) of western North America has a bright orange-red head and more complicated black and white body pattern.  Attached for comparison is a painting of one I did many years ago.

The Red-headed Woodpecker’s diet is divided between insects, including grasshoppers and others caught on the ground or in flight, and various plant species including tree nuts, berries and other fruit and seeds. They like to make their nesting cavities in dead trees, and seemed to benefit when Dutch elm disease not only provided such trees, but also the larvae, in the wood, of the beetles who were the vectors for the fungus that caused the disease. But they still are much rarer than I remember from my childhood, when they frequently would be found on wooden telephone poles.   

Put simply, their range is temperate North America, east of the Rocky Mountains, from southern Canada south, with northern birds migrating south for the winter.  This is another of my “covid paintings” done when I was worrying about art supply chains, and experimenting in non-traditional surfaces.  This painting is on a block of wood, the back of a serving platter, actually, and is 12 inches in size and three quarters of an inch thick, with the corners rounded, which does not show in my slightly cropped image.

Barry Kent MacKay

Bird Artist, Illustrator

Studio: (905) 472 9731

Purchase, print, product info:

31 Colonel Butler Drive

Markham, ON L3P 6B6 Canada

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