15 Birds With Red Heads and Where To Find Them [Pictures & Guide]

birds with red heads

In the world of birds, it is often the males who are brightly colored, especially among the birds with redheads. Nature has evolved them this way to scare off competitors and attract mates.

Why focus on birds with redheads? 

Aside from being some of the most fabulous-looking birds, it also can streamline your learning process.

When first getting into bird watching, it can simplify learning the different bird species by focussing on one attribute, in this case, redheads. Other than a small window in the Fall, Red isn’t very common in the wild, so red-headed birds will tend to stand out. 

Regardless of what part of North America you might live in, you can find some species of red-headed bird year-round.

Grab your binoculars, and let’s head out on the search for some of the brightest birds. 

House Finch

house finch

The male House Finch sports a red head and chest. The House finch is a small bird with short wings, making for a bouncy flight style. A curved, conical beak is optimized for breaking open seeds. You will often find them in urban backyards if you have a bird feeder.

Where to find the House Finch

Originally from the southwestern United States, the House Finch is now found in most of North America. They were sold as pets in the early part of the 1900s illegally. Birds released on the east coast survived and now have spread over most of the continent.

Northern Cardinal

northern cardinal

This is one of the most recognizable birds that has launched many people’s bird-watching pursuit. While the males are the bright red we associate with the Cardinal, even the female has a distinct crest on the head. Northern Cardinals are small birds that nest in dense brush. 

The female Northern Cardinal is one of the few that sing. They use their voice to communicate with their nesting partner.

Where to find the Northern Cardinal

Their territory stretches from the southwest desert to eastern Canada. It is only the Great Plain and Pacific Northwest they are absent from. The Northern Cardinal doesn’t migrate, so you can see them in backyard feeders in the dead of winter. 

Red Headed Woodpecker

red headed woodpecker

The Red-headed Woodpecker is distinctive with a full red head, white body, and black and white wings. 

This active and loud bird is one of the few that store food and covers it. They will place nuts, seeds, and insects in trees, fence posts, or under the shingles of houses and return to feed later. 

Where to find the Red-headed Wood Pecker

From central to eastern North America is the range of the Red-headed Woodpecker. They tend to keep to open woodlots, agricultural areas, and pine forests. 

In colder climates, they tend to migrate a short distance south so that you may catch them in the fall from Canada down to Pennsylvania. 

Downy Woodpecker

downy woodpecker

The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker in North America. With a wingspan of 8-12 inches, these are small for a woodpecker but still not small as far as birds go.

They are mostly black and white, but the males have a patch of red on the back of their heads. 

Where to find the Downy Woodpecker

You can find Downy Woodpeckers in most forested areas of North America. They are mainly found in deciduous forests and on the edge of brushy areas. The only area where they are absent is the southwest desert. 

You can also find them in city parks and backyards. 

They stay in the same location but may migrate south from frigid northern climates and move to lower mountain elevations come winter.

Hairy Woodpecker

hairy woodpecker

The Hairy Woodpeckers share a similar appearance to the Downy Woodpeckers with the same black and white coloring with the red spot on the back of their heads, only they are larger. They also have a longer beak, almost as long as their head.

Being larger birds, they are found in bigger trees and tend to dig for wood-boring insects for food.

Where to find the Hairy Woodpecker

The range of the Hairy Woodpecker covers most of North America. They are most easily found in mature forests but will move into areas that have been burned out or have an infestation of wood-boring beetles.

Pileated Woodpecker

pileated woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is a large bird with striking black and white stripes. For comparison, they are similar in size to crows. They have a bright red crest on their head.

These birds are voracious peckers, so you can often find them by following the sound of them digging in tree trunks for insects.

Where to find the Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpeckers are found in mature forests across Canada and the eastern United States. Look for areas with a lot of downed trees as these will have a lot of bugs, their main food source. They don’t migrate, so that you can find them year-round. 

Acorn Woodpecker

acorn woodpecker

The Acorn Woodpeckers look somewhat like clowns with black and white faces and a shock of red on top of their heads. They live in colonies, so when you find one, don’t be surprised if many more are in the area.

The store acorns in a communal area with members of the colony always guarding their stash. This allows them to prepare for the cold season. 

Where to find the Acorn Woodpecker

This western woodpecker is found in oak forests in the western states from California to Oregon. They are also found in Mexico and down as far as Columbia. Since their main food source is acorns from oak trees, they will always be found in or near forests that have an abundance of this type of tree.

Vermillion Fly Catcher

vermillion fly catcher

This little bright bird is like many species, with the males having bright colors to attract females. The body and top of the head have bright red or orange with black wings. They feed almost entirely on insects.

The males will court a female by bringing gifts of brightly colored insects such as butterflies.

Where to find the Vermillion Fly Catcher

The Vermillion Fly Catcher is mainly in the desert states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Western Texas. Their territory extends south as far as Central America. 

Ruby Throated Hummingbird

ruby throated hummingbird

This tiny hummingbird is colorful, with bright green wings and a vibrant red throat. The females have similar coloring but lack throat coloring. This is the only hummingbird that is common east of the great plains.

Their long bill and tongue allow them to delve deep into flowers for food. As well they can pluck insects from mid-air or out of spider webs.

Where to find the Ruby Throated Hummingbird

They are in eastern North America, from Canada down to Florida. They migrate to Central and South America in the fall. 

They are found in open fields with many flowering plants, as well as parks and urban settings with red and orange flowers. You can attract them to your backyard with a hummingbird feeder filled with sugar water.

Yellow Bellied Sapsucker

yellow bellied sapsucker

The Yellow Bellied Sapsucker is a small woodpecker with a long bill. The males are mainly black and white, with bright red on the throat and top of the head. 

They drill holes in trees with their strong beak and return to feed on the dripping sap. They will also feast on insects they find as well. 

Where to find the Yellow Bellied Sapsucker

In spring and summer, they are found across Canada and the North Eastern United States. In fall, they migrate south, some settling in the Southern U.S. while others will travel as far as South America. 

Look for them in young forests where there are a lot of fast-growing trees for them to harvest sap from. 

Red Breasted Sapsucker

red breasted sapsucker

Like its cousin, the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, the Red Breasted Sapsucker is a small woodpecker that feeds on sap from trees it taps holes into with its beak. The males have bright red breasts and heads. 

Since this is the least migratory of the Sapsuckers, you can expect to hear their drumming tapping trees year round.

Where to find the Red Breasted Sapsucker

Located all along the western states and into British Columbia in Canada. They can be found along the coast and in the mountains. The forests are usually a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees. 

If they are in an area that gets a cold winter, then short migrations may happen to head either to the coast or lower altitudes.

Scarlet Tanager

scarlet tanager

This thick little bird is bright red with black wings. They look like fat chickadees with big heads and short tails. Their thick conical bills are optimized for catching insects. 

The males get into singing battles over territory for nesting and foraging.

Where to find the Scarlet Tanager

Late spring and summer, find the Scarlet Tanager on the East Coast of the United States and as far north as the boreal forests of Canada.

They favor large tracts of uninterrupted forest, so you usually have to get out into the woods to find them. Look for mature forests with hardwoods as they like to nest high in the trees.

In late fall, they migrate to South America, as far south as the slopes of the Andes Mountains.

Summer Tanager

summer tanager

The male Summer Tanager is one of the rare birds almost completely red, making them relatively easy to spot. The females are mustard yellow.

These tough little birds feed on bees and wasps, plucking them out mid-air while avoiding being stung.

Where to find the Summer Tanager

In summer, you will find them in the Eastern and Southern United States as far west as the edge of Southern California. For winter, they migrate to Central and South America.

They can be found near the edges of open forests, usually high in the canopy, where they search for food.

Red Heads

red heads

The males of this species of diving duck have brownish-red heads. They feed on aquatic plants they have to dive down to retrieve.

Red Heads are parasitic breeders, laying eggs in the nest of other birds, so they incubate them. 

Where to find Red Heads

Red Heads spend the summer in ponds and lakes of the mid-west prairies. They are very social, so you will find large flocks, sometimes numbering in the thousands.

In winter, they head to the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, taking shelter in bays where they feed on seagrass.

Red Crossbill

red crossbill

The Red Crossbill is part of the finch family, with the males showing mostly red bodies and heads with blackish red wings. 

They have a distinctive bill that is slightly twisted, and the tips cross when closed. This allows them to extract seeds from hard-to-get conifer cones.

Where to find the Red Crossbill

They are found across Canada and in the Western states. You will find the Red Crossbill in coniferous forests so look for pine, spruce, hemlock, and Douglas fir. They nest near the edge of forests or open woodlands with nests placed high in the trees for protection.


  1. Jessica wiliam

    Wow. This article is so interesting. I don’t think that there are so many species of birds with red heads. This helps me to improve my knowledge. Before reading your article, I just know Northern Cardinal as a red bird. Thanks a lot.

  2. Do you know What kind of bird has a red head and black and white body?

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