9 BLACK And WHITE Birds With RED HEAD (ID Guide With Photos)

Did you recently come across a black and white bird with a red head, and want to know what species it was?

Identifying black and white birds that have a red head is not as easy as it might seem, since there are surprisingly many birds in North America that fit this description. 

To help you identify the bird you saw, we’ll cover all the black and white birds with red heads of North America.

Types of black and white birds with red head

What black and white birds have a red head?

There are 9 types of black and white birds in North America that have a red head, which all belong to the woodpecker and sapsucker families. 

Let’s dive into the details, and take a closer look at each of them:

Red-headed Woodpecker

Scientific name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus

Photo of Red-headed Woodpecker

The Red-headed Woodpecker is one of the few non-dimorphic woodpeckers, which means that males and females look alike.

Red Headed Woodpeckers have an all-red head with a solid black back. They also have a white chest, rump and belly, as well as black wings and a black tail. The bill and legs are gray.

The Red-Headed Woodpecker favors wide-open deciduous or coniferous forest habitats, or forests with plenty of dead or rotten limbs.

It may use the same nest cavity for multiple years in a succession, in contrast to other woodpeckers that only use them once or for a small period of time.

This woodpecker used to be common throughout North America, but the population has unfortunately declined by more than 90 percent, and the Red-headed Woodpecker is now a rare sight in many parts of the US.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Scientific name: Melanerpes carolinus

Photo of Red-bellied Woodpecker

The Red-bellied Woodpecker has a black-and-white “Zebra” pattern on its back, as well as a white rump.

Males have a red crown that goes all the way down to the base of the neck. Both sexes look similar, but the female lacks the red cap on its head.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker favors shady woodlands, forest edges and backyards with old trees.

It excavates holes in rotting wood to locate beetles, centipedes, spiders, and other creatures.

During winter, this red headed bird stores berries and acorns in tree crevices and cracks. Every year, the Red-bellied Woodpecker excavates a new nest below the previous one in the same tree.

While this small woodpecker is named for the rufous red tinge on its belly, this can be hard to see unless you get a close up view.

Fortunately, this beautiful bird is steadily expanding its range across the whole country.

Pileated Woodpecker

Scientific name: Dryocopus pileatus

Photo of Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is a large, crow sized woodpecker that has a bright red crest and forehead, as well as a black and white striped face and neck

The rest of this bird’s body is mostly black, although the white front edges of the wings flash brightly during flight. 

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in North America, and is a very shy bird that is mostly found in extensive tracts of woodland. 

In order to find insects to eat, the Pileated Woodpecker drills oval holes in tree trunks that may be up to several feet long.

You can find large wood chips lying on the ground around its feeding trees, which is a tell-tale sign that Pileated Woodpeckers have been at work.

Carpenter ants are its favorite snack, and it feeds its nestlings regurgitated insects. The young woodpeckers leave the nest with pretty much the same appearance as adults.

Downy Woodpecker

Scientific name: Picoides pubescens

Photo of Downy Woodpecker

The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker found in North America.

Males are black and white with a prominent red patch on their nape, but females are entirely black and white.

The wings of both sexes are black with white bars, which look like spots when the wings are folded.

Downy Woodpeckers are non-migratory, and can be seen all year round in most parts of North America, but they don’t occur in the arid regions in the southwest.

You can tell this woodpecker apart from the Hairy Woodpecker by its smaller size and short bill. 

While Downy Woodpeckers don’t migrate, they like to move around outside of the breeding season, in search of areas with plentiful food.

Their preferred habitat is deciduous or mixed forest, where they feed on insects and insect larvae found under the bark of trees. During winter they also eat berries and seeds.

Hairy Woodpecker

Scientific name: Picoides villosus

Photo of Hairy Woodpecker adult male

The Hairy Woodpecker looks similar to the Downy Woodpecker, but has a longer, thicker bill, and is a much larger bird overall.

Both the male and the female have black upperparts with white bars on the wing feathers, which look like spots when the wings are folded.

The male has a very small red patch on the back of its head, which is considerably smaller than the red patches on other woodpecker species.

The Hairy Woodpecker is a common breeding bird found throughout North America, and can be seen year-round.

This woodpecker breeds in both coniferous and deciduous forests, and is even found in parks and other urban areas with trees.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Scientific name: Dryobates scalaris

Photo of Ladder-backed Woodpecker adult male

The Ladder-backed Woodpecker is a bird of the arid mesquite scrubland of the southwestern United States. 

This small woodpecker has a black and white checkered back as well as several horizontal black and white stripes on its face. 

In addition, males have a bright red crown, while females lack the red feathers, and instead have a small orange patch on their forehead. 

You can attract these attractive woodpeckers to your birdfeeder by offering mealworms or black oil sunflower seeds.

Acorn Woodpecker

Scientific name: Melanerpes formicivorus

Photo of Acorn Woodpecker adult

The Acorn Woodpecker is a colorful small woodpecker that only occurs in a few areas of the southwestern and western United States.

While the back and wings of these birds are entirely black, their face has a large white patch on the throat and forehead, while the belly is white with black spots.

Both sexes also have a bright red patch on top of their head, and they are usually observed as part of a social group that forages together for acorns in open oak forests.

These black, white and red birds store their acorns in trees that are riddles with small holes created by a group of Acorn Woodpeckers. These birds also nest communally, and cooperate in raising their young. 

Red-naped Sapsucker

Scientific name: Sphyrapicus nuchalis

Photo of Red-naped Sapsucker

The Red-naped Sapsucker is a small woodpecker species with striking red coloration on the head. Adult birds have a bright red nape plus a red throat.

The partially red coloration on their head makes it easy to tell them apart from Red-breasted Sapsuckers, which have completely red colored heads.

The Red-naped Sapsucker is a breeding bird in the mountains of North America, and is more common during the winter months, when there is an influx of wintering birds from Canada.

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Scientific name: Sphyrapicus ruber

Photo of Red-breasted Sapsucker

The Red-breasted Sapsucker is a striking member of the woodpecker family, due to the scarlet red head and breast of adult birds.

The back is dark brownish green, while the belly is cream colored with dark spots and streaks. Juvenile birds look similar, but lack most of the red coloration.

Red-breasted Sapsuckers are birds of westernmost North America, and occur in a band along the coast from southern California all the way up to southern Alaska.

They are regular breeding birds in mixed forests, and can also be encountered in other habitats during winter, when there is an influx of northern sapsuckers that migrate to the United States for the winter.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Scientific name: Sphyrapicus varius

Photo of Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a breeding bird of Canada, and is a winter visitor in the southwestern United States.

The male has a checkered black and white back, as well as a scarlet red crown, forehead, and chin. It also has a yellowish tinge on its belly and chest. The female looks similar to the male, but has a white chin. 

This sapsucker is found in small forests, as well as rural and suburban areas.

It drills holes into trees in order to drink the sap that oozes out, which it. The bleeding sap also attracts insects, which the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker feeds on. 

Final remarks

In summary, these are the 9 types of black and white birds with red head in North America:

  • Red-headed Woodpecker
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  • Acorn Woodpecker
  • Red-naped Sapsucker
  • Red-breasted Sapsucker
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

If you’ve spotted one of these birds while bird watching in your backyard, hopefully this ID guide will help you identify it quickly and easily.

And if you enjoyed this article, check out our guide to the types of small birds with red heads.