All-red head, throat, and nape of neck, with black upperparts and a white patch on the trailing edge of each wing, a white rump, and all-white underparts. Juvenile has a brown head and a black line in the white wing patch. The voice is a loud, descending “kweeer.”
Similar species: The closely related red-bellied woodpecker cannot easily be confused with this species except in name. (Most woodpeckers have some amount of red on the head.) Red-bellied woodpeckers have grayish-white underparts and black-and-white banded upperparts. The red is limited to a red band from the bill over the crown to the nape (males) and or the nape only (females).