One of the best ways of identifying new birds is to take note of obvious features like their shape and color. If you’ve spotted a bird with a red head in the United States, the list of possibilities has been narrowed down by a long way.
In this article, I’ll give you a description of all the red-headed birds you’re most likely to see, as well as a picture of each to help you confirm your sighting.
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Table of Contents
- Identify A Bird With A Red Head: 9 Redheads Of The Bird World
- 1. Cassin’s Finch
- 2. House Finch
- 3. Western Tanager
- 4. Red-faced Warbler
- 5. Vermillion Flycatcher
- 6. Pileated Woodpecker
- 7. Red-breasted Sapsucker
- 8. Red-bellied Woodpecker
- 9. Red-headed Woodpecker
- Final Thoughts
Identify A Bird With A Red Head: 9 Redheads Of The Bird World
1. Cassin’s Finch
Cassin’s Finch is a small brown bird with a red head that looks very much like 2 other similar birds, the House Finch and the Purple Finch. It is only the male Cassin’s Finch that has a red head.
He also has a reddish face, chest, and back and differs from the House Finch by having unmarked whitish underparts. These birds can be found in the mountain country of the Western states like Idaho, Utah, and Colorado. Their distribution also ranges North into Canada, as well as south into Mexico.
2. House Finch
The House Finch is a common and widespread small bird with a red head. These birds can be seen almost throughout the United States, even in town and city centers.
This is a bird with a red head and brown body, that looks very similar to the Cassin’s Finch but differs by having streaked, brownish underparts. It is only the male House Finch that has a red head, and especially during the breeding season when their colors become much brighter. House finches often visit finch feeders and are a joy to watch out in the yard.
3. Western Tanager
The Western Tanager is a really colorful bird from the Western United States, ranging north and south of the borders, into Mexico and Canada. They are yellow birds with a red head and mostly black backs.
This is one of the most beautiful bird species in America and is hard to mistake for any other. The reddish head of the Western Tanager is most pronounced in the breeding season.
4. Red-faced Warbler
The Red-faced Warbler is a beautiful little gray bird with a red head. The bold head of these birds is also marked with a black ‘helmet’.
These birds are not very widespread in the United States and are only likely to be seen in the states of Arizona and New Mexico. They are a bird of high-altitude forests and are present only in the summer months, so you will probably need to travel to see one.
5. Vermillion Flycatcher
The male Vermillion Flycatcher not only has a shocking red head, but a completely red underside to match. The female, on the other hand, looks like a completely different species, being rather plain and brown.
The feathers on the head of the male form a crest that can be lifted or lowered. These are birds of the desert and can only be seen in the southern states like Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California.
6. Pileated Woodpecker
The Pileated Woodpecker is a large black bird with a red head. These impressive woodpeckers are much bigger than any other woodpecker in the United States. Pileated Woodpeckers have a mostly black body, with some white markings on the face and neck, and a brilliant red crown.
They can be seen in well-wooded country throughout most of the eastern half of the United States, and in parts of the northwest as well. These woodpeckers will even visit suet feeders in backyards sometimes, so if you live in the right area, you might well be able to attract a pair of these incredible redheads.
7. Red-breasted Sapsucker
The Red-breasted Sapsucker is a small bird with a red head and chest. Apart from the red plumage around the head, they have black backs, grey bellies, and a characteristic white spot between the base of the bill and the eye.
These little woodpeckers occur in a fairly narrow belt of land on North America’s west coast, from Canada, south to Mexico. These birds have a preference for coniferous forests, although they can be seen in a wide variety of wooded habitats.
8. Red-bellied Woodpecker
The Red-bellied Woodpecker is a well-known bird with red on the back of its head. These medium-sized woodpeckers are common birds of the eastern half of the United States and are a common Florida bird with a red head. In this species, only the top of the head is red, while the belly is cream-colored and the back is attractively marked in black and white.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers are another bird that will occasionally visit backyard bird feeders. Apart from wooded suburbs, this species is most often seen in forested areas and woodlands.
9. Red-headed Woodpecker
If you’ve seen a black and white bird with a red head, it could well be a Red-headed Woodpecker. When thinking of a classic bird with a red head, this is the first species that comes to mind.
These woodpeckers are one of a few species with red heads found in the eastern United States, but probably the easiest to identify. Red-headed Woodpeckers are most likely to be spotted in deciduous woodlands where they forage for fruits, insects, and seeds.
Other Redheaded Woodpeckers
Almost all the American woodpeckers are birds with red on the back of their heads. The best examples are:
- Lewis’s Woodpecker
- Acorn Woodpecker
- Gila Woodpecker
- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
- Red-naped Sapsucker
- Ladder-backed Woodpecker
- Nuttall’s Woodpecker
More Birds With Some Red Markings On The Head
If after going through all the birds already mentioned on this list, you still haven’t identified the bird you saw, consider one of the following:
- Male Ring-necked Pheasant
- Male Wild Turkey
- Male Magnificent Frigatebird
- White Ibis
- Turkey Vulture
- Common Gallinule
- Sandhill Crane
- Ruby-throated Hummingbird
- Anna’s Hummingbird
- Broad-tailed Hummingbird
- Barn Swallow
- Ruby-crowned kinglet
- Common and Hoary Redpolls
These birds don’t have purely red heads, but all of them do at least have some red coloration on the head.
Why do birds have different colors?
There are many reasons for birds having the colors that they have. Some of the most important reasons are:
- To impress members of the opposite sex
- To recognize other individuals of the same species
- To Intimidate other members of the same species in territorial displays
- For camouflage to protect against predators
Why are male birds more colorful than females?
In the bird world, it is usually the male that is more colorful and attractively marked than the female. He needs these bright colors to attract a female and also to show off to other males. Bright colors are a sign of health and fitness, which is something females look for because it could mean the male will be a good father, or at least that he has good genes.
How do birds get their colors?
The colors we see on the plumage of birds are the result of light reflected from pigments and other minute structures in the feathers.
After reading through this article, you should have no problem identifying birds with red heads in the United States. As a challenge, why not make a point of seeing all these birds out there while birding? Sounds like fun right? Happy birdwatching!