Submitted by Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association

If you grew up on the Bruce Peninsula in the 1960s to 1980s, a common sight was a small bird with a red head and white flash wing patches. You may have seen them flying across fields and road sites. These birds are called Red-headed woodpeckers and used to be common in North America. 

Sadly, in recent years their numbers are so small that as of 2018 they are classified as an Endangered Species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Their decline is likely due to loss of the open forest habitats that red-headed woodpeckers rely on to breed. While they are found throughout eastern North America, one of the greatest declines of red-headed woodpeckers has occurred in Ontario. 

Photo Credit: Olivia Wilson Photo: A Red-headed Woodpecker.

Why are Red-headed Woodpeckers important?

The Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association (BPBA), in collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Gow (Birds Canada, University of Guelph), and assisted by the Ecosystem Technician Olivia Wilson (BPBA), are working to identify how we can bring back red-headed woodpeckers to the Bruce Peninsula. Red-headed woodpeckers are integral parts of the ecosystem for many reasons. One of the primary reasons is because they are creating cavities that are used by many other species who now rely on the woodpeckers to take on this task. They also play an important role through their diet by eating insects. 

How can I help with this crucial project?

We are searching for red-headed woodpeckers on the Northern Bruce Peninsula so that we can better understand their habitat needs and how this might be affecting their numbers. So far, our research has been concentrated on a significant unsurveyed parcel of land in the Cape Chin area. We are pleased to share that we have located two breeding pairs and 12 other bird species at risk! 

Photo Credit: Patricia Sein Photo: The nest cavity of a Red-headed Woodpecker. If you know of any nesting cavity sites or if you see two Red-headed Woodpeckers together contact the BPBA.

We are now interested in identifying other breeding sites on the Peninsula for the Red-headed Woodpeckers so we can compare habitat characteristics and determine how this might be affecting the population. Our research, which began in April and continues until August, has been largely dependent on help from the public. We have been very thankful for the many volunteers that we have had support us and help search for cavities. Please let us know of any nesting cavity sites and the location if you see two Red-headed Woodpeckers together. 

 If you have any sightings or would like to volunteer and learn more about the project, we ask that you please contact Patricia Sein, Volunteer Coordinator at or Elizabeth Thorn at Any help towards this incredibly important project is greatly appreciated!