25 Birds with Red Heads North America (ID and Photo Guide)

Looking to identify a bird sporting a crimson crown? The task may seem daunting, given the multitude of avian creatures boasting scarlet crests. How does one even begin to unravel this feathery mystery?

Here are 25 species featuring red heads:

1. Northern Cardinal (35%)
2. House Finch (23.8%)
3. Downy Woodpecker (23.6%)
4. Red-bellied Woodpecker (21.2%)
5. Barn Swallow (11.1%)
6. Hairy Woodpecker (8%)
7. Pileated Woodpecker (6.3%)
8. Anna’s Hummingbird (5.8%)
9. Ruby-throated Hummingbird (5.4%)
10. Palm Warbler (3.5%)
11. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (3%)
12. Purple Finch (2.9%)
13. Scarlet Tanager (2.3%)
14. Acorn Woodpecker (2%)
15. Red-headed Woodpecker (2%)
16. Redhead (1.9%)
17. Summer Tanager (1.7%)
18. Western Tanager (1.5%)
19. Vermilion Flycatcher (0.7%)
20. Red Crossbill (0.6%)
21. Cassin’s Finch (0.5%)
22. Red-breasted Sapsucker (0.5%)
23. Common Redpoll (0.5%)
24. Pyrrhuloxia (0.4%)
25. Pine Grosbeak (0.2%)

These represent the most prevalent avian species adorned with crimson crowns or other red markings on their heads or throats.

To compile this list, 500 birds exhibiting red hues on their craniums were cross-referenced with a comprehensive catalog of 1,000 bird species sighted in North America. The percentages indicate the frequency of sightings recorded on ebird.org checklists.

This article equips you with identification details and photographs to facilitate the recognition of these red-headed birds.

Let’s delve into the descriptions of the aforementioned 25 avian species featuring red heads:

1. Northern Cardinal

For identification, observe the vibrant red plumage of male Northern Cardinals, accentuated by black facial markings. Their striking appearance stands out splendidly, especially against a snowy winter backdrop. Female Northern Cardinals are not to be outdone, boasting a touch of elegance with their brown feathers, sharp brown crests, and hints of red.

These cardinals inhabit eastern and southern states, and during the breeding season, they may display aggressive behavior by attacking their own reflections while zealously safeguarding their territories.

To attract more Northern Cardinals to your backyard, entice them with sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, millet, and milo. They will happily feed from large tube feeders, hoppers, platform feeders, or food scattered on the ground.

2. House Finch

Male House Finches also don red plumage on their heads and chests, while females exhibit brown streaks. Originally native to western states, these finches have successfully colonized eastern regions, even outcompeting the Purple Finch.

You can find them in parks, farms, forest edges, and backyard feeders. Their presence is hard to miss, as they tend to gather in noisy flocks.

To attract more House Finches to your backyard, offer black oil sunflower seeds or nyjer seeds in tube or platform feeders.

3. Downy Woodpecker

A common visitor to backyard feeders, the Downy Woodpecker is a diminutive avian species found across most states. Males sport a red patch at the back of their heads, distinguishing them from females. These woodpeckers often mingle with other birds like chickadees and nuthatches, displaying their black and white plumage. They bear a resemblance to Hairy Woodpeckers.

To entice more Downy Woodpeckers to your backyard, consider using suet feeders. Additionally, they will readily consume black oil sunflower seeds, millet, and peanuts from platform feeders.

4. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Spotting the red belly of the Red-bellied Woodpecker can prove challenging. Nevertheless, this species features a red head and nape, accompanied by a black-and-white striped back.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers inhabit Eastern states, emitting distinct calls during spring and summer. They frequent woodlands and forests, particularly those with decaying timber. Migratory tendencies are also characteristic of these woodpeckers.

Suet feeders are effective in attracting more Red-bellied Woodpeckers to your surroundings. Additionally, they may occasionally visit hummingbird feeders.

5. Barn Swallow

Rust-colored faces and tawny underparts, juxtaposed with blue backs, wings, and tails, define Barn Swallows. These birds breed across vast regions of North America before embarking on a southern migration during winter.

They can usually be observed darting above fields and open waters in search of sustenance. Mud nests constructed within human-made structures, such as barns, are emblematic of their nesting habits.

To invite more Barn Swallows to your backyard, offer ground-up eggshells on a platform feeder or provide suitable nesting spaces by keeping outbuildings or barn doors open.

6. Hairy Woodpecker

Across the expanse of North America, you can find the Hairy Woodpecker, a black and white bird featuring a red head patch. Slightly larger than its Downy Woodpecker counterpart, this species thrives in large trees, often providing an auditory clue to its presence through rhythmic tapping.

Woodpeckers, with their intriguing behaviors, offer a trove of fascinating facts to explore.

To attract more Hairy Woodpeckers, furnish suet feeders, particularly during winter.

7. Pileated Woodpecker

Proudly showcasing a bright red crest against a predominantly black body adorned with white stripes, the Pileated Woodpecker graces Eastern states and the northwestern coastal regions. This magnificent avian species rivals the size of crows and exhibits a preference for decaying wood, where it forages for carpenter ants.

To entice more Pileated Woodpeckers, deploy suet feeders.

8. Anna’s Hummingbird

Male Anna’s Hummingbirds sport rose-pink throats and emerald green plumage across most of their bodies. Females exhibit more subdued colors. These tiny avian creatures, approximately the size of ping-pong balls, frequent hummingbird feeders and are attracted to large, vibrant blossoms during spring.

Common along the Pacific Coast, male Anna’s Hummingbirds engage in breathtaking aerial displays during the breeding season, executing near-vertical dives.

9. Ruby-throated Hummingbird

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird predominantly flaunts green plumage, accented by a ruby flash at the throat in males. Females possess less vibrant hues. Breeding primarily in eastern states, these hummingbirds embark on a southward migration.

They can be observed in flower gardens, woodland edges, and are frequent visitors to hummingbird feeders. Hummingbirds derive sustenance from tubular flowers such as trumpet creepers, cardinal flowers, honeysuckle, jewelweed, bee-balm, red buckeye, and red

morning glory. Additionally, they consume insects.

10. Palm Warbler

Sporting a rusty red patch atop their heads, Palm Warblers exhibit a brownish-olive hue on their backs and a yellow underside. While breeding occurs in Canada, these warblers can be found in eastern states during migration. Along the far southern coast and Florida, they can be spotted year-round.

The best seasons to observe warblers, including Palm Warblers, are spring and fall. They often forage alongside Sparrows, Juncos, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, scouring the ground for insects.

11. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers feature a red crown and throat, along with a distinctive black and white pattern on their bodies. These birds are known for their unique feeding behavior, as they drill holes in tree trunks to extract sap and consume insects attracted to the sticky substance.

They can be found in eastern and northern regions of North America, particularly in wooded areas. Look for them around their characteristic sap wells or listen for their distinct calls.

12. Purple Finch

While primarily displaying a raspberry hue on their breasts and bodies, male Purple Finches also possess a reddish tinge on their heads. Females exhibit more subdued colors with streaked patterns.

These finches inhabit coniferous forests and can be found in various regions of North America. Offering nyjer or sunflower seeds in feeders can attract them to your backyard.

13. Scarlet Tanager

The Scarlet Tanager stands out with its brilliant red plumage. Males boast vibrant scarlet feathers, while females exhibit a more subdued yellow-green color. These birds are primarily found in deciduous forests, where they forage for insects among the tree canopy.

Listen for their distinctive song and keep an eye out for flashes of red as you explore wooded areas in eastern and central North America.

14. Acorn Woodpecker

With a bright red cap on their heads, Acorn Woodpeckers are a sight to behold. These social birds are known for their communal behavior, as they store acorns in granary trees, creating an intricate network of holes to store their winter food supply.

You can find Acorn Woodpeckers in oak woodlands of western North America. Look for them in groups, engaging in their unique acorn-caching activities.

15. Red-headed Woodpecker

True to its name, the Red-headed Woodpecker exhibits a vibrant red head, complemented by a black body and white underparts. These woodpeckers are highly skilled in catching insects in mid-air and can also be found foraging for acorns and other nuts.

Red-headed Woodpeckers are predominantly found in the eastern and central regions of North America. Keep an eye out for them in open woodlands and forest edges.

16. Redhead

The Redhead duck, as its name suggests, features a reddish-brown head. Males display a striking contrast between their redheads and gray bodies, while females exhibit more subdued colors. These diving ducks can be found in freshwater habitats such as marshes, ponds, and lakes.

Look for Redheads during migration or winter months along the coasts and inland water bodies of North America.

17. Summer Tanager

Male Summer Tanagers don a brilliant red plumage, while females exhibit a yellow-green hue. These birds are primarily insectivorous, catching insects in mid-air or plucking them from foliage.

Summer Tanagers inhabit various habitats across the southern and eastern parts of North America, including forests, woodlands, and gardens.

18. Western Tanager

Western Tanagers exhibit a striking combination of red, yellow, and black plumage. Males feature a red head and a bright yellow body, while females possess a more subdued yellow-green coloration.

These tanagers breed in coniferous forests and can be found in western regions of North America. Look for them during the summer months as they migrate to higher elevations.

19. Vermilion Flycatcher

The Vermilion Flycatcher showcases a brilliant red plumage, particularly in males. These small birds are known for their aerial acrobatics as they catch insects in mid-air.

Their range extends from the southwestern United States to Central and South America. Look for them in open habitats, including grasslands, deserts, and shrublands.

20. Red Crossbill

Red Crossbills are unique birds with specialized beaks that cross over each other, allowing them to extract seeds from conifer cones. Males feature a reddish hue, while females exhibit more subdued colors.

These birds are found across North America, particularly in coniferous forests. Listen for their distinctive calls as they forage for seeds in pine, spruce, and fir trees.

21. Cassin’s Finch

Cassin’s Finch displays a reddish coloration on its head and upper body. Males feature a bright red plumage, while females exhibit a more brownish hue.

These finches are found in western North America, primarily in mountainous regions with coniferous forests. Look for them at higher elevations during the breeding season.

22. Red-breasted Sapsucker

Red-breasted Sapsuckers feature a red crown and throat, along with a black and white pattern on their bodies. They are closely related to the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

These woodpeckers primarily inhabit western regions of North America, favoring coniferous forests. Keep an eye out for their distinctive sap wells on tree trunks.

23. Common Redpoll

Common Redpolls are small finches that display a red cap on their heads. These birds undertake nomadic movements, and their presence can vary from year to year.

They can be found in northern regions of North America, particularly during winter months. Look for them in open habitats with birch trees and shrubs.

24. Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia, also known as the Desert Cardinal, possesses a red crest on its head. These birds exhibit a gray body with reddish hues and can be found in arid habitats, including deserts and scrublands.

Their range extends from the southwestern United States into northern Mexico. Listen for their distinctive calls and keep an eye out for their colorful plumage.

25. Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeaks showcase a vibrant red plumage, particularly in males. They are known for their large, stout beaks that enable them to crack open seeds and fruit.

These grosbeaks breed in northern regions of North America, particularly in coniferous forests. During winter, they may move southward, venturing into more southern areas.

These 25 birds encompass the diverse array of avian species in North America that proudly display red on their heads or have vibrant red plumage. Enjoy the thrill of identifying and observing these magnificent creatures in the wild!

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