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7 Red-headed Birds in Indiana

red-headed birds in indiana
Green-winged Teal in LaPorte, Indiana: Photo by Jason Jablonski


A diverse population makes up the variety of striking red-headed birds in Indiana. These birds grace the skies and forests throughout the state. From waterfowl to woodpeckers, these birds captivate with their vibrant plumage and fascinating behaviors. Join us as we explore some of the notable red-headed birds in Indiana.

Green-Winged Teal (Anas crecca)
  • Features: The Green-Winged Teal is a small dabbling duck with intricate plumage patterns. Males sport a striking reddish-brown head with a bold green stripe extending from the eye to the back of the head. Females have mottled brown plumage with a subtle hint of reddish-brown on the head.
  • Behavior: Green-Winged Teals are skilled dabblers, often tipping forward in shallow water to forage on aquatic vegetation, seeds, and invertebrates. During the breeding season, males perform elaborate courtship displays, including head bobbing and whistling calls, to attract mates.
  • Locations: These teals can be found in various wetland habitats across Indiana. They prefer marshes, ponds, lakes, and flooded fields, especially during migration and wintering periods.
  • Fun Fact: The Green-Winged Teal is one of the smallest dabbling ducks in North America and is known for its agile flying abilities and swift takeoffs.
Canvasback (Aythya valisineria)
  • Features: The Canvasback is a medium-sized diving duck with a distinctive sloping profile and a rich red head that contrasts with its black chest and white body. Its long, sloping bill is adapted for feeding on aquatic vegetation as well as and invertebrates.
  • Behavior: Canvasbacks are strong divers, capable of diving to considerable depths in search of food. They primarily feed on underwater plants, seeds, and small invertebrates, using their serrated bills to grasp and crush their prey.
  • Locations: During migration, Canvasbacks can be found in large lakes, reservoirs, and coastal marshes in Indiana. They prefer open water habitats with ample submerged vegetation for foraging.
  • Fun Fact: The Canvasback is renowned for its swift and direct flight, often traveling long distances between breeding and wintering grounds.
Redhead (Aythya americana)
  • Features: The Redhead is a medium-sized diving duck with a distinctive red head and gray body. Males have a bright red head, while females have a reddish-brown head. Both sexes have pale gray bodies and black-tipped bills.
  • Behavior: Redheads are skilled divers, often diving in small groups to forage on submerged aquatic plants, seeds, and invertebrates. They are highly social birds and can be found in large flocks during migration and wintering periods.
  • Locations: Redheads can be found in a variety of aquatic habitats in Indiana, including lakes, ponds, rivers, and coastal marshes. They are often observed in mixed flocks with other diving duck species.
  • Fun Fact: The Redhead is known for its distinctive “sneeze whistle” call, which sounds like a high-pitched sneeze and is used for communication within flocks.
Red-Headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)
  • Features: The Red-Headed Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker with striking black-and-white plumage and a vibrant red head. Its bold coloring and undulating flight make it easy to identify in flight.
  • Behavior: Red-Headed Woodpeckers are adept at catching insects on the wing and excavating nest cavities in dead or dying trees. They are also known for their unique habit of storing food in crevices or under bark for later consumption.
  • Locations: These woodpeckers can be found in various wooded habitats across Indiana, including forests, woodlots, parks, and suburban areas with mature trees.
  • Fun Fact: This is one of the only woodpeckers known to cache food by impaling it on tree branches or wedging it into crevices.
Red-Bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
  • Features: Despite its name, the Red-Bellied Woodpecker has only a faint reddish wash on its belly. Instead, it is characterized by a bold red cap and nape, which contrast with its black and white plumage.
  • Behavior: Red-Bellied Woodpeckers are versatile foragers, feeding on a wide range of insects, fruits, seeds, and nuts. They often use their long, barbed tongues to extract prey from crevices in tree bark.
  • Locations: These woodpeckers are common residents in wooded areas throughout Indiana, including forests, woodlots, parks, and suburban neighborhoods with mature trees.
  • Fun Fact: Despite its name, the red belly of the Red-Bellied Woodpecker is subtle and often hidden from view.
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)
  • Features: The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker species in North America, with a distinctive red crest, black body, and white stripes on its face and neck. Its loud, drumming calls are often heard echoing through the forest.
  • Behavior: Pileated Woodpeckers are powerful excavators, capable of chiseling large rectangular cavities in dead or decaying trees in search of insects and larvae. They are also known for their distinctive drumming displays, which they use for communication and territory defense.
  • Locations: These iconic woodpeckers can be found in mature forests and wooded areas across Indiana, where they inhabit both upland and lowland habitats with ample standing dead trees.
  • Fun Fact: The Pileated Woodpecker’s large size and distinctive appearance make it a charismatic symbol of wild, healthy forests in Indiana and beyond.
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)
  • Features: The House Finch is a small, seed-eating bird with a brown-streaked back, whitish underparts, and a distinctive red forehead, throat, and upper breast in males. Females and juveniles have duller plumage with less prominent red coloring.
  • Behavior: House Finches are often seen foraging for seeds and grains on the ground or at bird feeders, where they feed on a variety of seeds, including sunflower, millet, and thistle seeds. They are highly adaptable birds and can be found in a wide range of habitats, including urban, suburban, and rural areas.
  • Locations: House Finches are common residents throughout Indiana, where they inhabit a variety of habitats, including gardens, parks, woodlands, and agricultural areas.
  • Fun Fact: The red coloration of the House Finch’s plumage is derived from pigments in its food, particularly carotenoid-rich fruits and berries. The intensity of the red coloration can vary depending on diet and environmental conditions.

Threats and Conservation

Indiana’s red-headed birds face various threats, including habitat loss, pollution, climate change, and predation. Wetland degradation and urbanization are particularly significant threats to waterfowl species, while forest fragmentation and tree removal impact woodpecker populations. Conservation efforts focused on habitat restoration, land protection, and pollution control are essential for the long-term survival of these birds.

Citizen Science Opportunities

Indiana birders can contribute to conservation efforts by participating in citizen science programs such as eBird, where they can submit bird sightings and contribute to our understanding of bird populations and distribution patterns. Other opportunities include volunteering for habitat restoration projects, participating in bird surveys and monitoring programs, and advocating for bird-friendly policies and land management practices.

Conclusion: Red-Headed Birds in Indiana

The red-headed birds in Indiana add color and diversity to the state’s avian community. By raising awareness, supporting conservation initiatives, and actively engaging in citizen science, we can ensure a brighter future for these iconic birds and the habitats they depend on.