These vibrant birds with striking redheads are not just remarkable to look at; there are also some fascinating evolutionary explanations for their dazzling scarlet plumage.
The color red is especially significant in the lives of birds as it is used as a signal to mates, to drive away competitors, and to convey maturity. Researchers have found that a phenomenal process enables these clever species to convert yellow pigment from their food into the spectacular red that we see in their feathers, their beaks, and even their bare skin.
- List of Birds with Red Heads
- Acorn Woodpecker
- Anna’s Hummingbird
- Barn Swallow
- Brazilian Tanager
- Cassin’s Finch
- Common Redpoll
- Crimson Sunbird
- Downy Woodpecker
- Hairy Woodpecker
- House Finch
- Northern Cardinal
- Palm Warbler
- Pileated Woodpecker
- Pine Grosbeak
- Purple Finch
- Red Crossbill
- Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Red-breasted Sap Sucker
- Red-faced Warbler
- Red-headed Finch
- Red-headed Woodpecker
- Ruby-throated Hummingbird
- Scarlet Flycatcher
- Scarlet Tanager
- Summer Tanager
- Western Tanager
List of Birds with Red Heads
In this list, we will dive into the myriad ways these birds have of showcasing their signature redheads. Amongst the Cardinals, Finches, and Woodpeckers we’ll also find the Common Redpoll with its little ruby cap and the entirely scarlet Summer Tanager.
Find out what they eat, where they live, and how they use their vibrantly colored crests to attract, warn or repel!
Scientific Name: Melanerpes formicivorus
The acorn woodpecker has unique facial markings, in fact, it has been described as ‘clown-like’ It is best known for its habit of hoarding acorns which make up half its diet along with many types of insects, particularly ants.
The common call is loud and shrill and is used for friendly greetings as well as disputes and family matters!
He lives among the oak and evergreen forests and mountains of Oregon, California all the way through to Columbia and Central America.
Scientific Name: Calypte anna
Anna’s hummingbirds have a shimmering Fuschia throat, crown, and forget, and an ever so slightly forked tail. Males who manage to have a higher portion of protein in their diet will have more vibrant crowns and glittering head feathers as a result.
They spend days feeding on nectar from flowers and tree sap but will also eat little insects and spiders.
Found all along the western coast of North America, from southern Canada to Texas, they have a steady residency there and have even been spotted in Alaska.
Scientific name: Hirundo rustica
The barn swallow’s dark blue upperparts contrast vividly with the deep red forehead and throat. The outer tail feathers are elongated creating an incredible ‘forked’ tail.
They tend to settle in groups and often breed at the same nest site each year. They are known for mobbing intruders who make the mistake of coming too close.
Flies, aphids, crickets, and moths form the basis of these swallow’s daily cuisine.
Occupying a very widespread habitat, you can find this breed of swallow in Europe, Asia, Africa, and all across the Americas.
Scientific Name: Ramphocelus bresilius
The male has glistening crimson feathers on his head, and body while his streamlined wings are black with a stylish white flash.
They voraciously feast on fruit, seeds, and insects and woe betide the interloper who interrupts their hearty repast – they will defend the food source with some degree of vigor!
You can find them in Brazil, Argentina, and South America
Scientific Name: Haemorhous cassinii
The Cassin’s finch frequents evergreen forests and may be identified by its red crown and notched tail.
They feed mostly on tree buds and seeds and mix very well with other finches, often singing a very sweet song that sounds like ‘tulip!’
One of the most common birds in North America’s interior mountains, they are also known to breed in Mexico.
Scientific Name: Acanthis flammea
This small finch’s grey body is interspersed with darker streaks and a patch of red on its forehead.
Breeding begins in May and they will build their nest very low down in a tree or a bush it is a very elaborate affair consisting of layer upon layer of willow, reindeer hair, twigs, and juniper bark.
The diet for this little redpoll is mostly small seeds from trees such as alder, birch, and spruces.
Breeding in the Arctic, it will occasionally pay a visit to Canada and the northern states.
Scientific Name: Aethopyga siparaja
With a crimson breast, maroon back, and olive-yellow underparts, these small sunbirds are a florid vision worthy of their wonderful name.
Feeding almost exclusively on nectar, they can hover whilst doing this somewhat like hummingbirds but more often, will perch elegantly in order to drink.
Their high-pitched song is loud and repetitive, often described as a ‘chirping trill’
Unofficially the national bird of Singapore, this little sunbird can be found in Asia, India, and eastern Indonesia.
Scientific Name: Dryobates pubescens
The adult male downy woodpecker has a red patch on the back of his head whereas juveniles have a red cap on the top of their head.
Nesting in tree cavities, this acrobatic forager will cleverly peel off the bark surface and eat insects, seeds, and berries.
Predominantly residents of North America, will venture into Canada and flock to suburban backyards during winter.
Scientific Name: Leuconotopicus villosus
Similar to the Downy woodpecker except for having a longer bill, the hairy woodpecker has a two-tone black and white chequered body, and the males, a flash of red towards the back of the head.
They love to eat tree sap along with nuts seeds, berries, fruit, and suet if you want to entice them to a feeder in your backyard!
These are birds of the forests but are also found in suburban parks, cemeteries, and woodlots all across North America, the Bahamas, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.
Scientific Name: Haemorhous mexicanus
The rosy red head of this lovely finch contains pigments from its food so, the more pigment in the food, the redder the feathers become!
Adults have long, square-tipped brown tails and dark grey wing feathers.
They feed their young entirely on plant foods which is unusual in the bird world. Dinnertime favorites are nettles, grains, seeds, and dandelions. Both the male and female house finch sing loudly and often, in short warbling notes!
Human-created habitats are favored by these familiar birds but in rural areas, you might see them throughout semi-open areas of western North America, and they’ve also been introduced to Hawaii.
Scientific Name: Cardinalis cardinalis
This male long-tailed songbird is vibrant red with a black mask and throat. Females are pale brown with reddish tints. They both share a vivid orange bill which is cone-shaped and extremely strong.
During winter, both male and female will puff up their down feathers to help them to stay warm.
They love to sit low down in shrubs and forage close to the ground on beetles, grasshoppers, ants, seeds, weeds, and grain.
They can be found in the woodlands of south-eastern Canada, eastern United States, and all the way through to Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas, Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico.
Scientific Name: Setophaga palmarum
A muted brownish-yellow bird with a handsome rusty cap during the breeding season, this warbler also has a wide ‘eyebrow’ above its eyes and a bright yellow undertail.
They enjoy spending their time foraging for insects and berries. You can tell them apart from other small birds by their signature tail-bobbing motion. They breed in bogs and clearings in boreal forests.
They migrate to open, shrubby grasslands across the south-eastern United States, the Caribbean, and eastern Nicaragua in the winter.
Scientific Name: Dryocopus pileatus
Cutting a striking figure through the trees, the pileated woodpecker is mostly black with an incredible red crest and white lines along the throat. He is actually the third-largest woodpecker in the world. ‘Pileated’ is a reference to his bold red chest and is from the Latin ‘Pilatus’ meaning ‘capped’.
They love to eat insects, especially carpenter ants which they gather up with their long tongues. They also will not refuse fruits, nuts, and even poison ivy berries.
Drumming is an important pre-breeding ritual that they will do on hollow trees for the magnificent acoustics! If this were not impressive enough, they also perform an amazing courtship dance before bonding for life.
You’ll find them in large forests around North America, and Canada.
Scientific Name: Pinicola enucleator
Plump and short-necked male pine grosbeaks are a beautiful pinkish-red across the head, back and rump while females are a more subdued yellowish-orange on the head and olive green-grey on the back and underparts.
One of the largest finch family members, they measure 20 to 25.5 cm (7.9 to 10.0 in) in length and weigh from 52 to 78 g (1.8 to 2.8 oz)
They love the red fruits of crab apples and mountain ash trees and you can often see the tell-tale mess of fruits and seeds on their beaks and faces! Not easily disturbed, you can get fairly close to them without causing too much alarm.
Found in woods across Alaska, mountains of the United States, Canada, and even across the Palearctic to Siberia.
Scientific Name: Haemorhous purpureus
Male purple finches have a raspberry red head and chest, brown back, and white underparts with a short, forked brown tail. Females have no red but have strong facial markings including a stylish white eye stripe.
They can be very loud in forests but hard to see in summer as they stick to very high foliage. In winter they descend to forage for seeds, stalks, and weeds, berries, insects, millet, and thistle. Their nests are shaped like open cups and lined with weeds, moss, hair, and grass.
Distributed throughout Canada and the northeastern United States, they have been somewhat displaced by the house finch and house sparrow.
Scientific Name: Cardinalis sinuatus
Primarily grey with a stunning red breast, crest, wings, tail, and face – when this wonderful bird isn’t using its parrot-like beak to crack seeds it loves to feast upon caterpillars, weeds, and cactus fruit.
The nests they build in dense bushes including elderberry will be lined with thorny twigs, bark, horse hair, feathers, and spider webs. They will use their sharp, clear song to defend territories especially whilst foraging.
The tough and cheerful pyrrhuloxia lives in the desert scrub of the American southwest and northern Mexico, often flocking in enormous groups during the winter months. They will happily visit bird feeders in suburban neighborhoods.
Scientific Name: Loxia curvirostra
This little bird is distinguishable from other finches as it can extract seeds due to their mandibles crossing at the tips which impressively allows them to separate the scales of conifer cones. Adult males have a brick red head and chest whereas females tend to be green and yellow.
Interestingly, there is a huge variation in beak size and shape and also call sounds. These deviations have led to the creation of sub-species groups within the red crossbill breed.
They are nomadic, following seed production and so breed and forage opportunistically. When not breeding they will flock together or with other crossbill breeds. Seen throughout North America and Eurasia.
Males of this species have a red cap, neck, and belly, and females, have a red patch on the nape and above the bill. Both sexes have a loud ‘drum’ call they begin in early May to attract potential mates. The red tint on this bird’s belly and from which it gets its name can be difficult to see under usual circumstances.
They are able to pull beetles and other insects out of trees with their long tongues and store them behind the bark. They also catch insects in flight and enjoy a variety of fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Mainly found in the eastern United States in woodlands, groves, orchards, and swamps. They depend on large trees for nesting so, in areas of intense deforestation, they may relocate to gardens.
Red-breasted Sap Sucker
Scientific Name: Sphyrapicus rubber
The brilliant red hood of the sapsucker extends along his throat and breast. The intensity can vary between subspecies and juveniles are more brownish but still have a reddish cast over the face and breast. The back is black and white and the underparts are pale grey with dark streaks and a muted yellow tint across the belly.
They are quite a silent bird except when courting when you may recognize them by their irregular drumming. They gobble up insects, fruit, and berries but primarily love to feed upon nectar and sap.
Found all year along the Pacific coast from Alaska, Vancouver Island right through to northern California.
Scientific Name: Cardellina rubrifrons
The face, neck, and breast of this little warbler are all bright scarlet and wonderfully complimented by the sides of the head and crown which are a sleek black. They are pale grey on top with white rump and underparts.
They eat caterpillars, flies, and berries and have an endearing habit of waving their tails from side to side whilst feeding. Protective of their eggs, they hide their nests in shrubs close to the ground so they are almost buried.
Preferring high altitudes, its main habitat is in the mountain forests of New Mexico and Arizona migrating to Central America in winter.
Scientific Name: Amana erythrocephala
This gregarious finch is small but beautifully formed with a grey-brown body, white lower belly, and of course, redhead!
A monogamous bird, they breed in thorn scrub reusing nests year after year, often communing with up to a hundred others.
Seen around dry savannahs, they visit water holes in Africa, Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.
Scientific Name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus
Adult male and female red-headed woodpeckers are both tricolored with an entirely scarlet head and neck, black tail and wings, and white underparts.
They are omnivores eating fruit, berries, nuts, seeds, and every now and then, a small rodent. Sometimes they will store these food items in a homemade larder fashioned from a tree cavity.
Grasslands with scattered trees almost everywhere form the habitat of these rosy-headed birds but they are particularly fond of south-America and south-east Asia.
Scientific Name: Archilochus colubris
The adult male has a glittering red throat patch but is otherwise green, black, and grey-white. The female has a notched tail and green, black and white plumage.
They use their calls mostly for threats and courtship displays when the squeaky chirrup will be augmented by the side-to-side sound of his tail feathers. They feed throughout the day on spiders, insects, gnats, aphids, and nectar which they will source in the woodlands and meadows of Central America, Mexico, and Florida.
Scientific Name: Pyrocephalus rubinus
Also known as the vermillion flycatcher, these brightly-colored birds are darkest at the tip of the tail with a brilliant scarlet head, chest, and crown.
These striking flycatchers are monogamous and the nest site is chosen when the female begins construction. Both parents feed the young a diet consisting mostly of moths and butterflies, in fact, almost half their food intake is larval Lepidoptera.
Their range runs from the southwestern United States through to Mexico, Central America, and Argentina.
Scientific Name: Piranga olivacea
This unmistakable tanager is a two-tone vision in black and red. Fairly stocky birds, their rounded bills are ideal for eating fruit and catching insects.
Nesting in oaks, beech, hemlock-hardwood, birch, and aspen, they are adept at feeding their young insects but will include snails, earthworms, and spiders. Territorial singing contests between males sometimes end in confrontations.
This American bird is a strong flyer and favors dense woodland and suburbs.
Scientific Name: Piranga rubra
The male summer tanager is red from top to toe! In fact, he’s the only completely red bird in South America. Despite its brilliant color, he can be hard to find as he favors the very tops of trees. A good method is to listen out for his distinctive call instead – it is a ‘pit-te-take song reminiscent of a robin.
He is a bee expert and can catch them in mid-air. They also like larvae and will tear apart nests to get to the nectar.
Summer Tanagers breed in pine and oak woodlands across the United States. They migrate to Mexico, Central America, and South America.
Scientific Name: Piranga ludoviciana
Adult males have vibrant red faces, black wings, and yellow shoulders and rumps.
When they arrive at their breeding territory in the spring, their nests are built by the female and may take more than four days to complete.
Although adapted to eat fruit, they stick principally to protein-rich insects and nectar.
They live in open forests and high mountains across North America and Canada through south-eastern Alaska, Mexico, and central Colorado.