If you’re a bird enthusiast in Florida, you’ll know that the Sunshine State is a treasure trove of avian diversity, boasting several stunning red headed birds that are simply breathtaking to behold.
These birds not only add a pop of vibrant color to the landscape but also contribute to the delicate balance of the state’s ecosystems.
In this article, we’ll take you on a journey to explore 10 of the most magnificent red headed birds in Florida, providing interesting insights and an identification guide into each one.
Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or simply appreciate nature’s beauty, our guide to Florida’s red headed birds is a must-read. So grab your binoculars and let’s dive in!
1 – Red-headed Woodpecker
Quick Identification Guide of Red-headed Woodpecker
- Size: Red-headed Woodpecker is a medium size woodpecker with 7.5 to 9 inches long and a wingspan of 16 to 17 inches.
- Body color: Adults (both sexes) have a striking black and white body plumage with a bright red head and neck. Juveniles have similar black and white body plumage, but the head and neck are a duller red.
- Unique distinguishable colors or patterns: Bold, black and white striped back and wings with white underparts. In flight, it shows a prominent white patch on the wings.
- Bill: Stout and pointed bill that is shorter than the head.
- Legs and feet: Short, strong legs and feet with two toes pointing forward and two pointing backward.
The Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) is a medium-sized woodpecker that is endemic to North America.
With its striking black, white, and bright red plumage, it is easily discernible. And it is a common resident in the eastern parts of the United States.
This species typically prefers open habitats, including woodlands, orchards, and farmland.
Red-headed Woodpeckers are renowned for their unique feeding habits. They are often observed catching insects in mid-air and storing nuts and acorns in tree cavities for later consumption. Such behaviors are integral to their survival and further emphasize the importance of conserving their habitats.
Regrettably, the Red-headed Woodpecker’s population has been declining in recent years due to habitat loss and fragmentation.
As such, it is imperative that their habitats are protected and conserved to ensure the continued survival of this magnificent bird. In doing so, we can promote the conservation of this species, as well as the ecosystems it inhabits.
In Florida, you can see Red-headed Woodpeckers year-round in all regions except the Southern areas of Florida where you will rarely see them.
2 – Pileated Woodpecker
Quick Identification Guide of Pileated Woodpecker
- Size: Large woodpecker. Approximately 16-19 inches in length and 26-30 inches in wingspan.
- Body color: Mostly black with white stripes on the face and neck, a large red crest on the head, and white underwings. Males and females both have red crests on the head. But only males have a red stripe on the cheek.
- Bill: Long, chisel-like bill for drilling into wood
- Legs and feet: black legs, and feet.
The Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) is a remarkable bird species that is native to North America, with a range that extends across most of the United States and Canada.
These woodpeckers inhabit mature forests with large trees that provide ample nesting and foraging opportunities.
As the largest woodpecker in North America, the Pileated Woodpecker is readily identifiable by its striking appearance. Its red crest on its head, black and white striped face and neck, and long, chisel-like bill make it a notable presence in any forest setting.
These woodpeckers are primarily insectivorous, feeding on insects found in dead or dying trees. But they also consume fruits and nuts. Their loud and distinctive call often precedes their appearance, despite their large size.
As an important component of the forest ecosystem, Pileated Woodpeckers play a crucial role in controlling insect populations and creating nesting sites for other bird and mammal species.
In Florida, Pileated Woodpeckers are a year-round presence in all regions, highlighting their adaptability and resilience in different environments.
Understanding and protecting these magnificent birds can contribute to preserving the health and diversity of North America’s forests.
3 – Red-bellied Woodpecker
Quick Identification Guide of Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Size: Medium size woodpecker with approximately 9-10 inches in length and a wingspan of 13-17 inches.
- Body color: Mostly black and white, with a red patch on the nape of the neck and a red wash on the belly (more prominent in males). Only males have a red crown.
- Distinguishable colors or patterns: Black and white striped back and wings, white underparts, and a black and white striped face with a white eye-ring.
- Bill: Strong and chisel-like for drilling into wood, approximately 1-1.5 inches long.
- Legs and feet: Gray-black, with two toes facing forward and two facing backward for better gripping on trees.
The Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) is a widely distributed woodpecker species commonly found throughout the eastern portion of North America.
This species is known to inhabit a variety of habitats, such as deciduous forests, wooded suburbs, and parks.
They are classified as omnivorous, with a diet that includes insects, nuts, fruits, and seeds. These woodpeckers can often be observed foraging on tree trunks and branches for food.
Although named Red-bellied Woodpeckers, it is challenging to find red on their bellies. The red wash on their bellies can be difficult to perceive under certain lighting conditions.
However, these woodpeckers can be readily recognized by their characteristic black and white striped back and wings, as well as their red nape and eye-ring.
Moreover, these woodpeckers are known for their distinctive and loud, rolling call that can frequently be heard before the bird is seen.
In Florida, you can find Red-bellied Woodpeckers year-round, and their presence can add beauty and interest to any birdwatching excursion.
4 – Northern Cardinal
Quick Identification Guide of Northern Cardinal
- Size: Approximately 8-9 inches long with a wingspan of 10-12 inches.
- Body color: The male is bright red with a black mask around the eyes, face, and throat and a short crest on his head. The female is mostly pale brown with a crest, wings, and tail tinged with red.
- Bill: Both sexes have a thick, red-orange bill.
- Legs and feet: Grayish-brown legs with strong, sharp claws that allow them to perch on branches and twigs.
The Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is a familiar bird species found throughout the eastern United States, including Florida. You shouldn’t have missed this common bird in backyards and gardens.
These birds prefer open woodland areas, shrubs, and brushy habitats close to water sources.
During the breeding season, male Northern Cardinals are known to be territorial, and they aggressively defend their territory from other males. This behavior often includes attacking their own reflection in mirrors or other glass surfaces, mistakenly perceiving their reflection as an intruder to their breeding territory.
The Northern Cardinal’s diet is primarily composed of seeds, fruits, and insects. These birds can be observed year-round in Florida, frequenting bird feeders, parks, and suburban areas.
Overall, the Northern Cardinal is a delightful and familiar avian species that adds charm and beauty to any natural setting where they reside.
5 – Summer Tanager
Quick Identification Guide of Summer Tanager
- Size: Medium-sized songbird of 7-8 inches in length
- Body color: Males are bright red; females are yellowish-olive to olive-gray
- Bill: Short, stout blunt-tipped bills
- Legs and feet: Grayish-black
Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra) is a unique bird species in North America due to its fully red plumage, which is not seen in any other bird species in the region.
The male birds are easily identifiable due to their bright red feathers. In contrast, female birds have a more subdued appearance, with their feathers being yellowish-olive to olive-gray in color.
These birds inhabit various types of environments, including open woodlands, forest edges, and parks with mature trees. They mostly stay in forest canopies.
And, Summer Tanagers are known for their specialized diet, which primarily consists of bees and wasps. They are known to catch these insects while in flight, but they also consume fruits as part of their diet.
You can see Summer Tanagers during migration in South Florida and during the breeding season in the rest of the state.
It is worth noting that Summer Tanagers are fascinating bird species and a sight to behold, especially when their bright red plumage stands out among the greenery of the forests they inhabit.
6 – Scarlet Tanager
Quick Identification Guide of Scarlet Tanager
- Size: Scarlet Tanager is a medium size songbird with 6-7 inches in length and 9.5-11.5 wingspan.
- Body color: Males have bright red plumage with black wings and tails during breeding and olive-yellow plumage with black wings and tails during non-breeding. Females look similar to non-breeding males but with dark olive-green wings and tails
- Bill: Short and stout
- Legs and feet: Dark gray
Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea) is a brightly colored bird species found in the eastern United States. The male birds have bright scarlet plumage that is easy to recognize, while female birds have yellow-green feathers.
These birds are often found in deciduous and mixed forests, but due to their tendency to stay high in the canopies, they are difficult to spot. And also habitat fragmentation has impacted their population.
Scarlet Tanagers primarily feed on insects and fruit, making them critical for the maintenance of the ecosystem.
Furthermore, in Florida, Scarlet Tanagers can be seen during their migratory period, with sightings across the entire state.
It is worth noting that Scarlet Tanagers are a fascinating bird species and are sought after by many birders and enthusiasts for their striking appearance and ecological significance.
7 – House Finch
Quick Identification Guide of House Finch
- Size: 5-6 inches in length with a wingspan of 8-10 inches.
- Body color: Males are red on the head, breast, and rump; brown-streaked back and wings. And females are grayish-brown with heavy streaking on the breast and belly.
- Bill: Short and conical
- Legs and feet: Grayish-brown
The House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) is a diminutive avian species that belongs to the family Fringillidae and is indigenous to the North American continent.
Originally restricted to the western regions of the United States, they have gradually colonized the eastern parts of the country.
House Finches exhibit a wide range of ecological adaptability, and hence, can be encountered in diverse habitats, including residential neighborhoods, urban and suburban areas, parks, and gardens.
Their diet primarily comprises seeds and fruits, which they readily obtain from various food sources.
In Florida, the House Finch is a year-round resident in the northwest and central regions.
Due to their attractive plumage and appealing behavior, these birds have become a favorite among bird enthusiasts and are often spotted flitting around gardens and bird feeders.
8 – Purple Finch
Quick Identification Guide of Purple Finch
- Size: Purple Finches are about the same size as house finch (5-6 inches in length)
- Body color: Males are raspberry-red on the head, breast, and back; brown wings and tail; females are brownish-gray with heavy streaking on the breast and belly
- Bill: Short, conical, and powerful bill
- Legs and feet: Brownish-gray
The Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus) is a small, sparrow-like bird that is endemic to the North American continent.
In the eastern regions of the United States, they are considered winter birds. However, their population numbers have experienced a decline in recent decades, which is attributed to the expansion of House Finches in the eastern regions following the 1950s.
The Purple Finch exhibits a wide range of ecological adaptability and can be found in diverse habitats, including coniferous and mixed forests, as well as suburban areas.
When in forested areas, they tend to occupy high tree canopies and can be challenging to spot. However, they can be easily attracted to feeders with seeds.
Their diet primarily consists of seeds and fruits.
In Florida, Purple Finches are observable in the non-breeding season, primarily in the northwest region of the state.
9 – Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
Quick Identification Guide of Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
- Size: Approximately 7-9 inches in length, with a wingspan of 13-16 inches.
- Body color: Black and white with a bright red forehead, white underpart and yellow belly. The head and back are striped with black and white. Males have a red throat patch while females have a white throat and a smaller red forehead patch.
- Bill: Short and chisel-like for drilling into trees, approximately 1 inch long.
- Legs and feet: Grayish-blue with two toes facing forward and two facing backward for better gripping on trees.
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) is a migratory bird species that breeds in boreal forests throughout North America, including Canada and the northeastern United States.
During the winter season, they migrate to the southeastern United States, including Florida.
This bird species derives its name from its peculiar habit of creating small holes in trees to feed on the sap that oozes out and the insects that are drawn to it.
Additionally, they supplement their diet with fruits and berries. The adult male can be easily distinguished by its yellow belly, red forehead, and red throat.
On the other hand, the female has a smaller red forehead patch and a white throat. They are often spotted in wooded areas, particularly near water sources. And their drumming and calling sounds can be heard throughout the day.
During the non-breeding season, you can see Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers throughout Florida.
Their black and white striped head and back, coupled with their striking red forehead and yellow belly, make them a visually appealing bird species to observe.
10 – Vermilion Flycatcher
Quick Identification Guide of Vermilion Flycatcher
- Size: Small bird, about 5.5 inches in length.
- Body color: Male has a bright red head, throat, and breast; female has a duller brownish head and whitish breast with a grayish-brown back and wings.
- Bill: Long, thin, and black.
- Legs and feet: Black.
The Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) is a small but striking bird with a bright red head, throat, and breast in males, and a more subdued brownish coloration in females.
This bird can be found in the southern parts of the United States, Mexico, and South America, preferring open areas with scattered trees, brush, and grasslands.
It feeds on insects, especially flying insects like flies and dragonflies, which it catches in mid-air.
In Florida, the Vermilion Flycatcher can be seen during the winter months along the west coast and southern parts of the state.
Keep an eye out for these striking birds perched on low branches or fence posts, waiting for their next meal to fly by.
Summary of Information about Red Headed Birds in Florida!
The following table summarizes the best times of the year and the best regions in Florida to see each above-listed bird.
In addition, you can refer to this table to get information on these birds such as the length, wingspan, and food preferences as well.
|Bird with Red Heads||Place and time of the year to see them in South Carolina||Length||Wingspan||Food|
|Red-headed Woodpecker||All regions – year-round (rare in South Florida)||about 7.5-9.5 inches||about 16.5 inches||Omnivores – Insects, spiders, earthworms, nuts, seeds, berries|
|Pileated Woodpecker||All regions – year-round||about 15-19.5 inches||about 26-29.5 inches||Omnivores – Carpenter ants, termites, flies, nuts and fruits.|
|Red-bellied Woodpecker||All regions – year-round||about 9.5 inches||about 13-16.5 inches||Omnivores – Arboreal arthropods, invertebrates, nuts, seeds, berries.|
|Northern Cardinal||All regions – year-round||about 8-9.5 inches||about 10-12 inches||Omnivores – Seeds, berries, frutis, leaf buds, insects|
|Summer Tanager||South Florida – MigrationOther regions – breeding season||about 7-8 inches||about 11-12 inches||Omnivores – Mainly insects (popular as bee and wasp eaters), and at times, berries and fruits|
|Scarlet Tanager||All regions – migration||about 6-7 inches||about 9.5-11.5 inches||Omnivores – Mainly insects, and at times, berries and fruits|
|House Finch||Northwest and central parts of Florida – year-round||about 5-6 inches||about 8-10 inches||Herbivore – Seeds, berries, fruits|
|Purple Finch||Northwest Florida – non-breeding season||about 5-6 inches||about 8-10 inches||Omnivores – Mainly insects, seeds, and berries|
|Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker||All regions – Non-breeding||about 7-9 inches||about 13-16 inches||Omnivores – Insects, fruits, berries, nuts, seeds.|
|Vermilion Flycatcher||West and southern coast – non-breeding||about 6 inches||about 9-10 inches||Flying insects – flies, grasshoppers, and beetles (mostly insectivores)|
Why wait? it’s time to explore!
With the information presented, you now possess the necessary knowledge to accurately recognize red headed bird species in Florida.
For further details, including actual sightings and range data of all the aforementioned birds, you can refer to valuable resources such as eBird and All About Birds. They provide comprehensive information to enrich your understanding and observation of avian species.
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