Red-headed Woodpecker is a striking bird that is essentially a United States endemic. Although its range extends slightly into southern Canada, most of the population resides in the Lower 48 states and it has not been recorded in Mexico. It is migratory, with a northward push in April and May, and a southward movement in September and October.
Although Red-headed Woodpecker is fundamentally a bird of woodlands, it uses quite different types woodland habitats in different portions of the country. These different regional habitat preferences are captured well by the occurrence maps, but perhaps easier to view on the below static map from 21 June 2008 (click to view larger size).
Red-headed Woodpeckers prefer relatively open forests with dead trees and snags. They are common in southeastern pine forests — the same areas that have high occurrence of Brown-headed Nuthatch. Much of the Red-headed Woodpecker population winters in these forests, and good numbers breed here as well. But unlike Brown-headed Nuthatch, Red-headed Woodpeckers also breed in deciduous forests to the north. In the Great Plains, this species occurs in open cottonwood forests such as those along the Platte River and its tributaries. This habitat association is responsible for the high density of the species in Nebraska, for example. East of there, Red-headed Woodpeckers may use oak grassland ecosystems that have scattered oak trees. These ecosystems account for their occurrence in southwestern Minnesota, along the Lake Erie shoreline in Ohio, and in western Maryland/southwestern Pennsylvania. Additionally, in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain of the Atlantic Coast states, the species may use beaver ponds, powerline cuts, or other forest clearings, which accounts for their background occurrence throughout much of the rest of the East at much lower frequencies. Given the complex regional habitat preferences, the model has been very successful at identifying the areas of high occurrence for the species.