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8 Red-headed Birds in Minnesota

red-headed birds in minnesota
Green-winged Teal in Dakota, Minnesota: Photo by Arthur Mercado


Nestled amidst the diverse landscapes of Minnesota, a variety of red-headed birds grace the skies and woodlands, adding splashes of vibrant color to the natural tapestry of the state. From the iconic red-headed woodpecker to the graceful green-winged teal, these avian wonders captivate birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the fascinating world of red-headed birds in Minnesota, exploring their unique features, behaviors, habitats, and conservation status.

Popular Red-headed Birds in Minnesota

Green-Winged Teal (Anas crecca)

  • Features: The green-winged teal is a small dabbling duck with distinctive plumage, characterized by a chestnut-colored head with a striking emerald green patch on its wings.
  • Behavior: These ducks are often seen foraging in shallow waters, where they feed on aquatic plants, seeds, and invertebrates.
  • Habitat: Green-winged teal inhabit a variety of wetland habitats, including marshes, ponds, and lakes, where they can find suitable nesting sites and ample food resources.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Redhead (Aythya americana)

  • Features: The redhead is a medium-sized diving duck with a distinctive red head and neck, contrasting with its gray body and black breast. Males have brighter plumage than females.
  • Behavior: These ducks are skilled divers, using their strong legs and webbed feet to propel themselves underwater in search of aquatic plants, seeds, and invertebrates.
  • Habitat: Redheads prefer open water habitats such as lakes, reservoirs, and coastal marshes, where they can dive for food and find suitable nesting sites.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)

  • Features: The common merganser is a large diving duck with a slender, serrated bill and a distinctive red head with a greenish sheen. Females have a rusty-red head with a gray body, while males have a more pronounced greenish hue.
  • Behavior: These mergansers are powerful swimmers and divers, using their streamlined bodies and webbed feet to navigate underwater in search of fish, their primary prey.
  • Habitat: Common mergansers inhabit freshwater habitats such as lakes, rivers, and streams, where they can find an abundance of fish and suitable nesting sites in hollow trees or rock crevices.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

  • Features: The turkey vulture is a large scavenging bird with a featherless red head and a dark brown body. Its keen sense of smell allows it to locate carrion from great distances.
  • Behavior: These vultures are often seen soaring high in the sky on thermals, using their broad wings and distinctive flight patterns to search for food.
  • Habitat: Turkey vultures inhabit a variety of habitats, including forests, grasslands, and urban areas, where they can find carrion to feed on.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Red-Headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

  • Features: The red-headed woodpecker is a striking bird with a vibrant red head, contrasting with its black body and white wing patches. Its bold coloration makes it easy to identify in flight.
  • Behavior: These woodpeckers are skilled foragers, using their strong bills to drill into trees in search of insects, seeds, and sap.
  • Habitat: Red-headed woodpeckers inhabit a variety of forested habitats, including woodlands, orchards, and parks, where they can find suitable nesting sites and abundant food.
  • Conservation Status: Near Threatened

Red-Bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

  • Features: Despite its name, the red-bellied woodpecker has only a faint blush of red on its belly. Its most prominent feature is its red crown, which contrasts with its black-and-white barred back.
  • Behavior: These woodpeckers are agile climbers, using their stiff tail feathers and strong toes to grip tree trunks and branches as they search for insects, fruits, and seeds.
  • Habitat: Red-bellied woodpeckers inhabit a variety of wooded habitats, including forests, woodlots, and suburban areas with mature trees.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

  • Features: The pileated woodpecker is the largest woodpecker species in North America, with a distinctive red crest on its head and bold black-and-white plumage.
  • Behavior: These woodpeckers are powerful excavators, using their chisel-like bills to create large rectangular holes in dead trees in search of insects, especially carpenter ants.
  • Habitat: Pileated woodpeckers inhabit mature forests and woodland areas, where they can find suitable nesting sites in large, old-growth trees.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

  • Features: The house finch is a small, colorful bird with a red-orange crown, throat, and eyebrow stripe, contrasting with its brown streaked back and wings.
  • Behavior: These finches are highly adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats, including urban areas, where they feed on seeds, fruits, and insects.
  • Habitat: House finches inhabit a wide range of habitats, including gardens, parks, and agricultural areas, where they can find food and suitable nesting sites.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Threats and Conservation

While many of these red-headed birds are currently classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, habitat loss, climate change, and other human-induced factors pose ongoing threats to their populations. Conservation efforts focused on habitat preservation, restoration, and the protection of key breeding and foraging areas are essential for ensuring the long-term survival of these species in Minnesota.

Citizen Science

Birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts can contribute valuable data to scientific research through citizen science projects such as eBird and the Great Backyard Bird Count. By recording observations of red-headed birds and other species, individuals can help researchers better understand bird populations, distributions, and behaviors, ultimately aiding in conservation efforts.


From the vibrant red plumage of the red-headed woodpecker to the subtle blush of the red-bellied woodpecker, there are many red-headed birds in Minnesota. By appreciating and protecting these avian treasures, we can ensure that future generations have the opportunity to experience the beauty and wonder of Minnesota’s rich birdlife. Whether spotting them in the wild or creating bird-friendly habitats in our own backyard, red-headed birds remind us of the importance of preserving and cherishing our natural heritage.