Cooperative Research Units
Education, Research And Technical Assistance For Managing Our Natural Resources
Home | Intranet | Digital Measures | Help

Red-headed woodpecker: indicators of oak savanna health


July 2019 - June 2021


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.


Current Staff

Federal Staff: 2

Masters Students: 2

Phd Students: 4

Post Docs: 3

University Staff: 1

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 11

Scientific Publications: 48

Presentations: 104



Funding Agencies

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


Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Cooperators

  1. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
  2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  3. U.S. Geological Survey
  4. University of Minnesota
  5. Wildlife Management Institute