Red-bellied Woodpecker
(Melanerpes carolinus)


Picture of bird
© Ken Thomas
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

One of the rarest woodpeckers in Ontario, this species mainly breeds in the eastern United States and has a restricted but expanding range in Canada. The Red-bellied Woodpecker prefers mature deciduous forests, primarily Carolinian forest. The population and distribution have increased dramatically in southern Ontario since about 1970, as documented by the Breeding Bird Survey.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Apparently secure2015 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLarge IncreaseHighAt an Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada5,000 - 50,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence


Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaVery Low

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between mid-April and late April and ends in early July, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

The Red-bellied Woodpecker's range expansion has been facilitated by its generalist foraging and nesting habits, and a warming climate (Shackelford et al. 2000, Kirchman and Schneider 2014). As a forest habitat generalist, it is unlikely that this species will become threatened in the near future. It can be found in urban settings, as well as more remote forests (Shackelford et al. 2000).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type