Golden-fronted Woodpecker: Bird Identification, Habits, Facts, Nesting

January 25, 2022 // 6 minute read

Bird Species » Golden-fronted Woodpecker

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Golden-fronted Woodpeckers are North American woodpeckers commonly found in open woodlands. They look very similar to Red-bellied Woodpeckers, but what makes them distinct is their golden forehead, where their name came from. 

In this article, we will learn more about the Golden-fronted Woodpecker. We’ll discuss: 

  • How to identify them
  • Where you’ll find them
  • What they eat
  • How they nest
  • Their behaviors
  • How to attract them
  • Their conservation status
  • Interesting facts

So if you want to learn more about these birds, read on as we go through all bird facts…

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Golden-fronted Woodpecker Bird Facts

  • Common Name: Golden fronted Woodpecker
  • Scientific Name: Melanerpes aurifrons
  • Scientific Family: Picidae
  • Life Span: 5.7 years
  • Size: 8.7 to 10.2 inches
  • Wingspan: 16.5 to 17.3 inches
  • Weight: 2.6 to 3.5 oz
  • Conservation status: Least Concern (LC)

How To Identify A Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golde-fronted Woodpeckers are very similar to Red-bellied Woodpeckers. These birds are medium-sized, generally smaller than the Northern Flicker. They grow at 8.7 to 10.2 inches, weigh around 2.6 to 3.5 ounces, and have a wingspan of 16.5 to 17.3 inches. 

These birds feature a black-and-white back and wings, white rump, and black tail. And as their name implies, they feature a yellow-orange nape, a red cap, and a small golden patch sprinkled right at the top of their mandible. Their faces are grayish-colored, and their underparts are gray-white. 

Differences Between Male & Female

Male and female Golden-fronted Woodpeckers look very much alike, except for the red cap and yellow spot that only the male birds have. Added to this, if you take a closer look at the lower belly of the female bird, you’ll notice a yellowish plumage. Unfortunately, depending on the angle, this can be difficult to see. 

Differences In Summer Plumage vs Winter Plumage

Golden-fronted Woodpeckers look the same all year round, regardless of the season.

Where You’ll See Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpeckers are widespread in the Nearctic Region, mainly crossing the border of Southern Texas reaching eastern Mexico. 

These birds occupy a wide range of habitats, but most are mainly found in dry, semi-open woodlands where cottonwood, willow, and cypress stand. They can also be found in brushlands where oak and juniper trees grow. 

Golden-fronted Woodpecker Migration Patterns

Golden-fronted Woodpeckers are non-migratory birds. This means that they stay in their own territories all year round. 

Diet and Feeding Preferences

Golden-fronted Woodpeckers are omnivorous birds, meaning they can eat almost anything, including insects, fruits, and nuts. Other things included in their diet are beetles, ants, grasshoppers, moths, small lizards, and sometimes, birds’ eggs. 

Depending on the area, their diet can change, too. For example, Texas would generally eat acorns, fruits, and berries. 

These birds search for insects on tree trunks and limbs, oftentimes picking the food out instead of excavating. In winter, they feed on the ground rather than trees. 

Golden-fronted woodpeckers are also frequent backyard visitors. So having some fruit-bearing or nut-bearing trees around would help encourage them to come, especially in winter when there is limited food resource. 

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Golden-fronted Woodpecker Nesting Facts

  • Clutch Size: 4-7 eggs
  • # of Broods: 1-2 broods
  • Incubation Period: 12-14 days
  • Nestling Period: 30-32 days
  • Egg Description: White

Golden-fronted Woodpeckers build their nests in a tree trunk cavity, regardless of whether it’s alive or dead. 

These birds would choose nest sites 6-20 feet above ground where both birds would excavate a cavity. Oftentimes, they will choose mesquite, pecan, oak, cottonwood, or cedar elm trees as a nest site. If there are no trees, they might also nest in utility poles and fence posts. 

A Golden-fronted Woodpecker’s nest cavity often measures 12.5 inches deep and with an entrance hole that measures 2 inches in diameter. They would then line the bottom of these cavities with wood chips.

Both male and female birds care for their young, with the male and female birds taking turns in the mornings and night. 

Golden-fronted Woodpecker Behavior

Golden-fronted Woodpeckers are monogamous birds that stay together all year round. There is really no specific time of the year when courtship takes place, but pairs are said to bond around late February. 

These birds love hopping along flat surfaces and in straight lines, and they love bathing in small bodies of water. So having those small puddles in your backyard might help attract them. 

They may not be that aggressive for social birds, but they can be territorial. During the breeding season, they become attack their intruders by expanding their heads fully and lunging directly to their enemy. 

Another thing recorded about this bird is that they are forming hybrids with Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Both birds may not be overlapping territories, but somehow this is made possible. 

Tips for Birdwatchers On How To Attract Golden-fronted Woodpecker

If you want to attract Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, you need to think about what they eat, where they nest, and other things they love. 

These birds feed on a wide variety of insects, so making your backyard more insect-friendly would help attract them. They also eat nuts, berries, fruits, and seeds, which means planting some fruit-bearing and nut-bearing plants would help, too. Make sure you hang some bird feeders around filled with their favorite seeds to convince them to hang out. 

Provide a place for them to perch and next, too. If there are dead trees and you think it’s safe to keep them standing, don’t cut them. 

You should also make sure that they are provided with water. And since these are resident birds, they can visit your backyard in winter. This means that using a heated birdbath would keep providing them with the water they need during the cold season.

Conservation Status

Golden-fronted Woodpeckers are part of the low concern list despite their populations slightly declining. They adapt well to the changing of habitats, which is what’s helping them keep their populations stable. 

Fun & Interesting Facts

  • Unlike most woodpeckers, Golden-fronted woodpeckers eat as much fruit and nuts as insects. 
  • It comprises four subspecies that differ in size, amount of bars on the tail, nape color, nasal tufts, and belly. 
  • They were first described by Johann Georg Wagler. 
  • The oldest recorded Golden-fronted woodpecker lived for 5 years and 11 months old. 

Explore More Species in This Family

  • Williamson’s Sapsucker
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Red-naped Sapsucker

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