Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Minnesota
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Minnesota Project

Red-headed woodpecker: indicators of oak savanna health

July 2019 - June 2021


Participating Agencies

  • Sate of Minnesota, Environmental Trust Fund as recommended by LCCMR

The red-headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) is the flagship species of the oak savanna ecosystem. It plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy oak savanna by creating habitat for other species in live and dead trees. Historically, red-headed woodpeckers were common across the Midwest, but populations have experienced dramatic regional declines estimated at 67% since 1970. The situation in Minnesota is even grimmer: since 1967, this species has experienced an average annual decline of 6%, representing a cumulative loss of nearly 95% of the population. Although the rate at which red-headed woodpeckers are declining has slowed since 1990, populations in Minnesota do not appear to have stabilized. Our goals are to address population declines in a charismatic species of great conservation concern, to assess the outcomes of ongoing management and conservation efforts in an endangered ecosystem, and to develop a unified management plan for restoring oak savanna for red-headed woodpeckers and other oak habitat specialist species in Minnesota and throughout the Midwest.