University of Minnesota

See Red-Headed Woodpeckers at U of M ecology field station

Increasingly scarce birds are known for bright red heads, black and white bodies, and assertive behavior

May 23, 2013

If you’ve ever wanted to see a red-headed woodpecker up close, you’ll have your chance on Saturday, June 8 at the U of M College of Biological Sciences’ Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve (CCESR) in East Bethel.

Expert guides will lead visitors on tours through the reserve to observe the state’s largest breeding population of these increasingly scarce birds and give talks on their history and conservation tactics.

 Once very common in the United States, red-headed woodpeckers have declined by over 50 percent across most of the Midwest since the 1960s, partly because their preferred habitats – dead trees in open woods and grasslands – are vanishing. They build nests in cavities of dead trees and need open, grassy areas for swooping down on insects. After migrating south for the winter, the Cedar Creek woodpeckers have just returned to the reserve to find mates and set up nesting cavities in trees.

 According to Mary Spivey, CCESR education and outreach coordinator, chances are very good that visitors will see one or more woodpeckers on June 8. "We’ve never been disappointed in past years," she says. Last year, birdwatchers counted nearly 60 breeding pairs and banded 50 adult woodpeckers at Cedar Creek.

 Members of the Redheaded Woodpecker Recovery Project will lead tours from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tours will leave from the Lindeman Research and Discovery Center on a first-come, first served basis throughout the morning.

 Reservations are required only for those who need van transportation to nesting sites.

Please call Spivey at 763-434-5131. Walking shoes, binoculars and water bottles are recommended. Visitors are welcome to bring food and enjoy a picnic on the grounds.

 Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve is a 5,400-acre ecology research site about 30 minutes north of the Twin Cities, with natural habitats representing the entire upper Midwest. The field of ecosystem science was launched by discoveries made at Cedar Creek in the early 1940s and today it serves as a living laboratory for a renowned team of scientists who study the impact of human activities on global ecosystems. For more information, go to

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