Everything You Need to Know About Woodpeckers in North America.

Northern Flicker

Check out all the woodpeckers in North America, from the gruesome pantry of the Acorn Woodpecker to the prickly pear-loving Golden-fronted Woodpecker.

There are some gross woodpecker facts if you want to understand more about these fascinating birds.

Going out birding in the woods and forest is the best way of seeing woodpeckers in North America. However, some such as Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Hairy, Downy, and Northern Flickers can regularly be seen on backyard feeders.

There are 23 species of woodpeckers in North America, and those woodpeckers that migrate are Red-headed Woodpeckers, Yellow-bellied Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, Red-naped Woodpeckers, Williamson’s Woodpeckers, and Lewis’s Woodpeckers.

The biggest woodpecker in North America is the Pileated Woodpecker and the smallest woodpecker in North America is the Acorn Woodpecker.

Woodpeckers make distinctive drumming sounds, especially in the spring when they are looking for a mate. Both male and female woodpeckers make drumming sounds.

There are fewer woodpeckers in Canada than in the US. If you want to know which woodpeckers are in your state, just check the main menu drop-down.

Read on to find out all about the woodpeckers in North America, with pictures, videos, and what sounds they make.

There are 23 species of woodpecker in North America:

  1. Downy Woodpecker
  2. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  3. Northern Flicker
  4. Hairy Woodpecker
  5. Pileated Woodpecker
  6. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  7. Acorn Woodpecker
  8. Red-headed Woodpecker
  9. Nuttall’s Woodpecker
  10. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  11. Gila Woodpecker
  12. Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  13. Red-breasted Sapsucker
  14. Red-naped Sapsucker
  15. Lewis’s Woodpecker
  16. White-headed Woodpecker
  17. Williamson’s Sapsucker
  18. Gilded Flicker
  19. Arizona Woodpecker
  20. Red-cockaded Woodpecker
  21. American Three-toed Woodpecker
  22. Black-backed Woodpecker
  23. Ivory-billed Woodpecker

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The 23 Types of Woodpecker in North America

1. Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker for identification in Massachusetts MA
Male
Downy woodpecker female
Female

The Downy Woodpecker has black and white patterning, mostly black with a white patch on their backs.  The males also have a red patch on the back of their heads.

  • Length: 5.5-6.7 in (14-17 cm)
  • Weight: 0.7-1.0 oz (21-28 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in (25-30 cm)

Although visually very similar to the Hairy Woodpecker, it is a third smaller and with a smaller beak compared to other woodpeckers. It is usually a Downy Woodpecker that you see at feeders as they are more common.

Downy Woodpeckers are very common throughout the US and Canada. They are not found along the southern border with Mexico or the North of Canada.

Downy Woodpeckers can be found on backyard bird feeders. They make a high-pitched pik sound and the descending whinny call and are very active, so fun to watch.  Downy Woodpeckers nest in dead tree cavities and lay between 3-8 small (0.8 in) white eggs.

Downy woodpeckers eat mainly insects, especially larvae, nuts and they also eat berries, acorns, and grains.  They will sometimes be seen drinking from hummingbird feeders.

Downy Woodpecker sound

Downy Woodpeckers are the most common woodpecker. They make a slightly slower drumming sound, so you can hear more of the individual drums than the Hairy Woodpecker, to which they look and sound similar.

Credit: www.xeno-canto.org Aiden Place

Where to spot Downy Woodpeckers:

Downy Woodpeckers are often seen mixed in with other small birds such as nuthatches and chickadees. They can be found in open woodlands and parks, orchards, and backyards and are commonly seen at feeders.  They can also be seen amongst tall weeds.

How to attract more Downy Woodpeckers to your backyard: 

An upside-down suet feeder is excellent for smaller woodpeckers such as Downy Woodpeckers as they offer protection from the rain and help stop bully birds.  A bulk pack of suet cakes is a more economical way of buying them.

Also, black oil sunflower seeds attract more Downy Woodpeckers to your yard, and if you combine them with suet in great combination suet and hopper feeder, you get two feeders in one.

2. Red-bellied Woodpecker

red-bellied woodpecker
Male
Red-bellied woodpecker female
Female

Red-bellied Woodpeckers can be mistaken for Red-headed Woodpeckers as they have red caps, but they are much smaller than the Red-headed Woodpecker. Female Red-bellied Woodpeckers lack the red cap and only have red napes.

Length: 9.4 in (24 cm)
Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz (56-91 g)
Wingspan: 13.0-16.5 in (33-42 cm)

They have a very pale red belly that can be hard to spot but have the typical black and white markings over their backs.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers can be found in the Eastern US and they do not migrate.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers can often be seen at bird feeders, especially if you live near wooded areas. They make a distinctive loud rolling call which means you will often hear them before you see them.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers eat insects, spiders, seeds from grasses, fruit, and nuts. They will also sometimes eat nestlings. They nest in dead trees and may use the same nest year after year. They lay 4-5 white eggs on a bed of wood chips.

The tongue of the Red-bellied Woodpecker sticks out 2 inches past the beak and is barbed at the tip, along with sticky spit. This helps catch prey from deep crevices.

Red-bellied Woodpecker call and drumming

They make a shrill call and drum against trees at about 19 beats per second.

Credit: https://www.xeno-canto.org/ Paul Marvin

Where to spot Red-bellied Woodpeckers:

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are common in woodlands and forests in the eastern US but can be seen on bird feeders.

How to attract more Red-bellied Woodpeckers to your backyard feeders: 

Red-bellied Woodpeckers will come to backyards for suet, so try an upside-down suet feeder that can help stop squirrels and bully birds. These suet cakes come in a cheaper bulk pack.

Also, black oil sunflower seeds attract more Red-bellied Woodpeckers to your yard, and if you combine them with suet in a great combination suet and hopper feeder, you get two feeders in one.

They can also be seen on hummingbird feeders and will feed on fruit. Also, plant native berry trees such as hawthorn or mountain-ash.

3. Northern Flicker

northern-flicker-male-yellow-shafted
Male Yellow-Shafted
Northern flicker female yellow shafted
Female Yellow-shafted

Northern Flickers are large brown woodpeckers with colorful black-spotted plumage with a white patch on its rump in flight plus a red nape of the neck in the males. 

Northern Flickers have red or yellow flashes in the wings and tail depending on where they originate. Red-shafted birds live in the west, and yellow-shafted birds live in the east.

Length: 11.0-12.2 in (28-31 cm)
Weight: 3.9-5.6 oz (110-160 g)
Wingspan: 16.5-20.1 in (42-51 cm)

They can be spotted across all of the US and Canada, but those that breed in Canada migrate south for the winter.

Northern Flickers make a loud ringing call with a piercing yelp. They nest in tree cavities, and they lay 5-8 white eggs. They mainly eat ants and beetles and fruits and seeds and can often be seen on the ground digging them up with their curved bill.

Northern Flickers call and drumming:

Northern Flickers are quite large woodpeckers, and so their drumming is loud compared to smaller woodpeckers. They also make a long call that sounds like ‘flick – flick-flick’.

https://www.xeno-canto.org/ Ron Overholtz

Where to spot Northern Flickers:

Northern Flickers can be seen in open woods, forest edges, and parks, and suburbs. They are often on the ground foraging for food.

How to attract more Northern Flickers to your backyard feeders: 

Northern Flickers do come as often to bird feeders, but they can be seen at a birdbath, so adding an attractive pedestal birdbath or a heated birdbath for the winter is your best bet.  You can try to encourage them by having black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, suet, cracked corn, peanuts, and millet on suet cages, large hoppers, or platform feeders.

You can also put up a nest box suitable for flickers to attract a breeding pair and plant berry-producing plants like grape, bayberries, hackberries, or elderberries.

4. Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy woodpecker
Male
Hairy woodpecker female
Female

Hairy Woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers with a black and white pattern and a large white patch on their backs. The males have a flash of red towards the back of their heads.

Length: 7.1-10.2 in (18-26 cm)
Weight: 1.4-3.4 oz (40-95 g)
Wingspan: 13.0-16.1 in (33-41 cm)

Hairy Woodpeckers are visually similar to the Downy woodpecker but larger, and they have a longer bill.  As it is often found in the same areas, it is hard to tell them apart.

They can be found across all US states and most of Canada, and into Mexico. They can be seen on backyard feeders and are powerful small birds that make a whinnying sound or explosive peak calls.

Hairy Woodpeckers’ diet is mostly insects such as beetle larvae, ants, and bark beetles, but they will also eat bees, caterpillars, spiders, moth pupae, and millipedes.

This Woodpecker nests in the cavities of dead trees or dead parts of trees and lay between 3-6 white eggs.

Hairy Woodpecker sounds

The hairy Woodpeckers drum sounds similar to the Downy Woodpecker, but it is faster, and you cannot hear the individual drums as clearly.

Credit: https://www.xeno-canto.org/ Richard Webster

Where to spot Hairy Woodpeckers:

You can find Hairy Woodpeckers in woodlands on trunks or main branches of large trees, but they are also found in a wide variety of habitats, including woodlots, parks, and cemeteries.

How to attract more Hairy Woodpeckers to your backyard

Hairy Woodpeckers benefit from squirrel-proof suet feeders with a cage to stop larger birds from taking all the turns.  A bulk pack of suet cakes is a more economical way of buying them. Also, black oil sunflower seeds attract more Hairy Woodpeckers to your yard, and if you combine them with suet in a great combination suet and hopper feeder, then you get two feeders in one.

5. Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker for identification in west virginia

The Pileated Woodpecker is the biggest Woodpecker in North America, and with its’ flaming-red triangular crest, it is very striking.

It is one of the biggest woodpeckers being nearly the size of a crow. It is mostly black with a white stripe, and when flying, the white underside of the wings can be seen. Males have an additional red stripe on the cheek.

Length: 15.8-19.3 in (40-49 cm)
Weight: 8.8-12.3 oz (250-350 g)
Wingspan: 26.0-29.5 in (66-75 cm)

They live all year in Eastern US states, across Canada, and into Northwestern US states.

Pileated Woodpeckers mostly eat carpenter ants from dead trees and fallen logs, but they also eat beetle larvae, termites, and other insects as well as fruit and nuts such as blackberries, sumac berries, dogwood, and elderberry.  They make a loud shrill, whinnying call and deep, loud drumming.

Dead trees are used for nesting sites for Pileated Woodpeckers, and they usually make a new one each year, so the old nest site is often used by other species of birds.  They usually lay 3-5 white eggs.

Pileated Woodpecker call and drumming:

Pileated Woodpeckers drum is loud and booming due to their size. They also make a ‘wuk-wuk-wuk’ call and one that sounds like laughing.

Credit: https://www.xeno-canto.org/ Peter Ward and Ken Hall

Where to spot Pileated Woodpeckers: 

They are usually found in mature forests or drowned forests with lots of dead trees, but they also visit backyard feeders, especially for suet. They make distinctive rectangular holes in trees, so look out for these.

How to attract more Pileated Woodpeckers to your backyard:

Pileated Woodpeckers come to backyard bird feeders, especially for suet. They also eat black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, suet, peanuts, and mealworms. Also, try putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair.

Pileated woodpeckers prefer suet feeders with tail props and enjoy suet with added mealworms.

6. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

yellow bellied sapsucker
Male
yellow-bellied sapsucker femalefor identification in Michigan MN
Female

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are relatively small and are about the size of a robin.  They are mostly black with red foreheads, and the male has a red throat.

Length: 7.1-8.7 in (18-22 cm)
Weight: 1.5-1.9 oz (43-55 g)
Wingspan: 13.4-15.8 in (34-40 cm)

They migrate from Canada and Northeastern US states after breeding in the summer and spend the winter in the Southern US and Mexico.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers make holes in trees and use their brush-tipped tongues to get the sap out. They make neat rows of holes in horizontal rows, so look out for these in young paper birch, yellow birch, red or sugar maple, and hickory trees.

The holes need to be maintained to ensure a flow of sap.  They make a loud mewing call, and they nest in tree cavities and usually have 5-6 white eggs.

Where to spot Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers:

Young deciduous forests often on birch or maple trees where they make neat rows of sapwells to feed.

How to attract more Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers to your backyard:

Although not usually found at bird feeders, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers sometimes will come for suet, so try putting up squirrel-proof suet feeders and try mealworm suet or peanut butter suet.

7. Acorn Woodpecker

acorn woodpecker

Acorn Woodpeckers have distinctive clown-like faces with red caps, white faces, a black patch around the beak, and black over the back of their heads and back. Their bellies are white with black markings. Female Acorn Woodpeckers have less red on the crowns than males.

  • Length: 7.5-9.1 in (19-23 cm)
  • Weight: 2.3-3.2 oz (65-90 g)
  • Wingspan: 13.8-16.9 in (35-43 cm)

Acorn Woodpeckers are quite different than most woodpeckers in that they live in large groups and hoard acorns. They live in oak forests in western Oregon, California, and across to Texas, and down through Mexico to Central America.

They may look like clowns but it’s no laughing matter when it comes to eating, as the gruesome Acorn Woodpecker stores dead bugs in a ‘pantry’ and even eat the eggs of their own species!

Masses of holes drilled in winter in dead trees provide the perfect pantry, known as a granary tree,  for acorns and other nuts collected by the Acorn Woodpecker. They will even check stored acorns and move them to smaller holes once they dry out and shrink.

Insects are not left out when it comes to storage, but this gruesome pantry of dead bugs is often left in cracks or crevices. Fruit and sap provide other food sources, as do eggs, including eggs of their own species.

Where to Spot Acorn Woodpeckers:

Oak forests are the best place to spot them, as looking out for their guarded pantry stash and listening for their parrot-like squawks is an easy way to find these sociable birds.

How to Attract Acorn Woodpeckers to Your Backyard:

You may find Acorn Woodpeckers an unwelcome visitor as they are known to drill holes in wood siding and utility poles as this is considered deadwood! You may still get them visiting if you live near oak forests.

8. Red-headed Woodpecker

Red Headed Woodpecker

With their bright red-heads and black and white bold markings, these woodpeckers are one of the easiest to identify. Red-headed Woodpeckers are medium-sized with powerful spike bills. They have white undersides, black backs and large white bands on the wings, and short tails.

Length: 7.5-9.1 in (19-23 cm)
Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz (56-91 g)
Wingspan: 16.5 in (42 cm)

Red-headed Woodpeckers can be found in Eastern and Central US states and into southern Canada. Those in the north and east of the range may migrate further east and south depending on acorn crops.

They can fiercely defend their territories, even removing or destroying the eggs of other birds or ducks.  Red-headed Woodpeckers will catch insects in flight as well as in crevices like other woodpeckers.

Insects such as beetles, midges, honeybees, and grasshoppers, make up only about one-third of their diet. The other two-thirds are plant materials such as seeds, nuts, and berries. Red-headed Woodpeckers will also take nestlings or eggs from other birds and sometimes mice.

Red-headed Woodpeckers make a shrill call and nest in tree cavities, sometimes reusing a site, and lay 4-5 white eggs.  Unfortunately, huge declines of 70% of Red-headed Woodpeckers have occurred between 1966 to 2014 due to habitat loss.

Where to spot Red-headed Woodpeckers:

They can be found in open woodlots, farms, dead timber in swamps, or pine savannas. Sometimes they visit backyard bird feeders.

How to attract Red-headed Woodpeckers to your backyard feeder:

Red-headed Woodpeckers visit backyards for suet, so try this suet feeder that helps stop squirrels and bully birds. These suet cakes come in a cheaper bulk pack. They will also eat seeds, nuts, and fruit such as apples, berries, and grapes.

9. Nuttall’s Woodpecker

Credit: Becky Matsubari

Nuttall’s Woodpeckers are small black-and-white woodpeckers with stripes across their back and spots and stripes down their sides. Their bellies are white, and males have a red patch on their heads. Both males and females have white stripes across their faces.

  • Length: 6.3-7.1 in (16-18 cm)
  • Weight: 1.1-1.6 oz (30-45 g)
  • Wingspan: 13.0-16.1 in (33-41 cm)

Nuttall’s Woodpeckers mostly live in California, with a few birds in Northern Baja California and Southern Oregon.  They can be found hunting for insects hidden in branches of trees. Oak woodlands near streams are your best chance to see them.

Unusually for woodpeckers, they balance by fluttering their wings instead of resting on their tails. They make their own nests every year in dead trunks by chipping away at the wood to create a hole.

10. Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpeckers are small with a black and white ladder pattern on their backs and a checkered pattern on their wings. They are whiteish-gray underneath with faint black markings. Males have a red crown, and females have a black crown.

  • Length: 6.3-7.1 in (16-18 cm)
  • Weight: 0.7-1.7 oz (21-48 g)
  • Wingspan: 13.0 in (33 cm)

Deserts and thorn forests, across dry southern states from California to Texas, up to southeastern Colorado, and down through Mexico, are the usual habitats of Ladder-backed Woodpeckers. Ladder-backed Woodpeckers do not migrate.

Mainly feeding on insect larvae and some adult insects such as ants and caterpillars and occasionally Ladder-backed Woodpeckers will also eat cactus fruit.

Where to spot Ladder-backed Woodpeckers:

Early morning in February and March is the best time to spot Ladder-backed Woodpeckers as they are out defending their territories in preparation for breeding. Look for them in dry areas with Joshua trees, Juniper, willow, or honey mesquite.

How to attract more Ladder-backed Woodpeckers to your yard:

Ladder-backed Woodpeckers love mealworms, and they will also visit black oil sunflower seed feeders and eat peanut butter.

11. Gila Woodpecker

Gila Woodpecker

Gila Woodpeckers are barred black-and-white woodpeckers of the arid desert.  They have tan heads, and the males have a red crown patch.

  • Length: 8.7-9.4 in (22-24 cm)
  • Weight: 1.8-2.8 oz (51-79 g)
  • Wingspan: 15.8-16.5 in (40-42 cm)

They are resident in the arid deserts of the southwestern U.S, Northwest Mexico, and southern Baja California. They can often be seen and heard on a cool morning in their desert environment, often on top of a saguaro cactus.

Gila Woodpeckers feed on insects, small invertebrates, and berries.  Usually foraging in cacti and dead vegetation and sometimes foraging on the ground for earthworms. They build their nests in excavated cavities in a saguaro cactus.

To attract Gila Woodpeckers try suet feeders and tube or platform feeders with corn, fruit, and nuts.

12. Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Male Golden-fronted Woodpecker - Texas

Golden-fronted Woodpeckers have black-and-white bars on their backs, tan breasts, yellow napes, and a yellow patch in front of their eyes. Females also have a pale yellow lower belly, and males have a small red patch on the crown.

  • Length: 8.7-10.2 in (22-26 cm)
  • Weight: 2.6-3.5 oz (73-99 g)
  • Wingspan: 16.5-17.3 in (42-44 cm)

Golden-fronted woodpeckers look similar to Red-bellied Woodpeckers and fight to defend their territories against each other where their territories cross in parts of Texas. Birds further south in Mexico have more red coloring n the head and more yellow bellies.

Nicaragua is the most southerly range of the Golden-fronted Woodpecker and up through Mexico into Texas and Oklahoma. They do not migrate.

Texas is the only state in the United States that Golden-fronted Woodpeckers are common all year. In Texas, they range west of Dallas from north to south and are most common in the southeast of the state, south of San Antonio.

Fruit and nuts make up half of the diet of the Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and the rest is insects. They especially love prickly pear cactus and will have purple-stained faces from eating them.

Where to Spot Golden-bellied Woodpeckers:

Golden-fronted Woodpeckers like open woodland and arid scrub, and they are common in backyards.

How to Attract More Golden-Bellied Woodpeckers to Your Yard:

Golden-fronted Woodpeckers are common around backyards and love fruit and jelly, especially oranges.

13. Red-breasted Sapsucker

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Red-breasted Sapsuckers are medium-sized woodpeckers with dark red heads and breasts. They have a white line down the wing when folded and a white spot in front of their eye. Males and females look the same, but juveniles are darker and without the bright red head. Red-breasted Sapsuckers are redder on the head in northern areas than those in California.

  • Length: 7.9-8.7 in (20-22 cm)
  • Weight: 1.9-2.2 oz (53.1-63.5 g)
  • Wingspan: 14.6-16.0 in (37-40.6 cm)

Red-breasted Sapsuckers can be found in Canada along the Pacific Coast in British Columbia and in the southwestern corner of Alberta.

Red-breasted Sapsuckers migrate towards the coast from inland breeding areas in British Columbia and California but they remain all year along the whole Pacific Coast from the British Columbia to Baja Califonia.

They feed on sap from trees but also insects and fruit.

Where to find Red-breasted Sapsuckers:

Red-breasted Sapsuckers can be found in conifer forests, so look out for rows of shallow holes in the bark of trees.

How to attract Red-breasted Sapsuckers to your yard:

Sapsuckers do not as often come to backyards unless you have lots of conifer trees, but they may be tempted with cut fruit.

14. Red-naped Sapsucker

Red-naped Sapsuckers are medium-sized woodpeckers that look very similar to other woodpeckers and sapsuckers. A long white bar on the wings helps to distinguish them from the Hairy and Downy woodpeckers. 

They are black and white with a red cap, nape, and throat and a black stripe through the eye with mottled bellies. Females are similar except for a white patch on the chin.

  • Length: 7.5-8.3 in (19-21 cm)
  • Weight: 1.1-2.3 oz (32-66 g)
  • Wingspan: 16.1-16.9 in (41-43 cm)

Red-naped Sapsuckers are migratory and breed in mountain forests in western US states before migrating to southern Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Northern Mexico.

They feed on sap by drilling parallel lines of holes and using their tongues to lap the sap rather than suck the sap. They also eat ants, spiders, beetles, and flies.

Like most woodpeckers, they build cavity nests in trees with heartwood fungus, making them softer, and they may reuse the nest in future years and lay 3 – 7 eggs.

How to attract more Red-naped Sapsuckers to your backyard:

Red-naped Woodpeckers will visit backyards, especially if you have aspen, birch, or pine trees, and they visit suet feeders, and they are more active in the morning.

15. Lewis’s Woodpecker

Credit: Mike Bird

Lewis’s Woodpeckers look like a completely different bird species, catching insects on the wing rather than hammering on trees. Then there is the pink belly, gray collar, and dark back with a dark red face to set it apart from its family.

  • Length: 10.2-11.0 in (26-28 cm)
  • Weight: 3.1-4.9 oz (88-138 g)
  • Wingspan: 19.3-20.5 in (49-52 cm)

Lewis Woodpeckers can be found from as far north as British Columbia and down to California and Texas. They tend to breed further north in British Columbia, east to  Wyoming, and south to Nevada before migrating south to southwestern states. Those on the Pacific Coast tend to remain all year, as do those in the southeast of their range.

As well as eating flying insects, Acorn Woodpeckers also eat nuts and fruit, and they will store them in crevices of cottonwood trees in winter.

Lewis’s Woodpeckers do not make their own nests, preferring instead to us those created by other woodpeckers, and they lay 5 – 9 eggs.

16. White-headed Woodpecker

White headed Woodpecker

The white head and black body make the White-headed Woodpecker quite easy to identify. Males have a red patch toward the back of their head, but females are only white and black. They have a white stripe on the wings when closed.

  • Length: 8.3-9.1 in (21-23 cm)
  • Weight: 1.9-2.3 oz (55-65 g)

They live in pine forests in western mountains from California to British Columbia eating pine seeds and some insects, which they get from flaking the bark off rather than drilling holes like most woodpeckers.

Where to find White-headed Woodpeckers:

Forests with large ponderosa pine and sugar pine trees with large cones filled with pine seeds. 

How to attract White-headed Woodpeckers to your yard:

Although they eat pine seeds, they will also visit suet feeders if you live in their mountain range.

17. Williamson’s Sapsucker

Male Williamson's Sapsucker

Williamson’s Woodpecker males are more black than many woodpeckers with a glossy black back, vertical wing patches, red throat, and yellow belly.

Females have the more common black and white pattern on their back, and they have a brown head and black breast patch.

  • Length: 8.3-9.8 in (21-25 cm)
  • Weight: 1.6-1.9 oz (44-55 g)

Williamson’s Sapsuckers are migratory and spend the summer breeding in the mountainous west and the winter in southern states and Mexico.

Mainly feeding on sap from conifer trees, especially in spring, and then more insects such as ants, beetles, and flies in summer. Winter food is often fruit and seeds.

18. Gilded Flicker

Gilded Flickers are large woodpeckers of the desert. They have distinctive brown crowns and black bibs around the males neck. Their bodies are light brown and gray with spots and barring. Males have a red stripe on their faces.

  • Length: 11.0 in (28 cm)
  • Weight: 3.3-4.5 oz (92-129 g)
  • Wingspan: 19.7-20.5 in (50-52 cm)

Gilded Flickers do not migrate, and they range from southern Nevada, California, Arizona, Mexico, and Baja California.  

They feed on insects, fruits, berries, and seeds.

19. Arizona Woodpecker

Arizona Woodpecker

Arizona Woodpeckers are distinctive woodpeckers being brown, which is unusual for woodpeckers. Their backs are solid brown, and their bellies are white with stripes on males and spots on females. Males also have a red patch o the top of their heads.

  • Length: 7.1-7.9 in (18-20 cm)
  • Weight: 1.2-1.8 oz (34-51 g)
  • Wingspan: 14.2 in (36 cm)

Arizona Woodpeckers, although named Arizona Woodpeckers, they are predominantly found in Mexico as well as the southern corner of Arizona and New Mexico.  

They can be found in the mountains with pine and oak trees feeding on insects and acorns. They can often be found in flocks with other small birds such as chickadees and nuthatches outside of the breeding season, between March and May.

20. Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Red Cockaded Woodpecker

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are endangered and are small and hard to spot, being only robin-sized. 

They have black and white stripes on their backs, paler underneath with large white cheek patches. Males have a nearly invisible red line on their cheeks.

  • Length: 7.9-9.1 in (20-23 cm)
  • Weight: 1.5-1.8 oz (42-52 g)
  • Wingspan: 14.2 in (36 cm)

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers have a small range in Southeastern US states.

Due to habitat loss due to logging of the old longleaf pines, Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are now endangered, with a decline in numbers of 86% since 1966. They forage in groups in pine trees and eat insects and larvae, such as ants, beetles, centipedes. They will also eat seeds and fruit such as pine seeds, wild cherries, grapes, blueberries, and grapes.

Nests of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker are made in pine trees that have been softened by the red heart fungus. They lay 2-5 white eggs and drill sapwells below the nest cavity, so the leaking sap deters predators.

How to attract more Red-cockaded Woodpeckers to your backyard:

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers may be attracted to your backyard with fruit such as berries if you live near pine forests. Try planting native berry-producing plants such as grape, bayberries, hackberries, or elderberries.

21. American Three-toed Woodepcker

Three toed woodpecker

American Three-toed Woodpeckers have a yellow patch on the forehead, with black backs with white barring and white spots on the wings. They are white underneath with black barring on their sides.

They look similar to Black-backed Woodpeckers, but they are smaller. Females lack the yellow patch and have black foreheads.

  • Length: 8.3-9.1 in (21-23 cm)
  • Weight: 1.6-2.4 oz (44.8-67.9 g)
  • Wingspan: 14.6-15.3 in (37-39 cm)

Although small, they are very powerful as they have three toes instead of the usual four, which allows them to lean back further.

Mostly found in Canada and Alaska, but American Three-toed Woodpeckers are also found further south down the western mountains down to Oregon and Nevada and as far as Arizona and New Mexico. Further east, they can be found in Michigan and Minnesota. They may move to lower elevations and from the far north in winter.

They prefer forests damaged by fire, flood, or storms that have lots of insects. They do not migrate and nest in May and June, laying up to 4 eggs. 

22. Black-backed Woodpecker

black-backed woodpecker

Black-backed Woodpeckers are small, so they are hard to spot, as they are only robin-sized, with a black back helping them to blend in.  They have black and white stripes on their sides and a mostly white underbelly.  The male has a yellow cap.

  • Length: 9.1 in (23 cm)
  • Weight: 2.1-3.1 oz (61-88 g)
  • Wingspan: 15.8-16.5 in (40-42 cm

Black-backed Woodpeckers do not migrate, and they predominantly live in Canada and Alaska and some down parts of the Western US as far as California. They occasionally move south looking for food especially after fires leave lots of dead trees, which are perfect for them.

It specializes in eating wood-boring beetle larvae, especially in newly burned forests.  It does this by flaking the bark off the dead trees, so burnt forests are your best bet on seeing the Black-backed Woodpecker.  They make a single sharp pik call.

They are one of the less common woodpeckers with three toes rather than most species that have four. They are similar to the American Three-toed Woodpecker but without the white patch on their backs.

Black-backed Woodpeckers make a new nest hole for every nesting attempt, which is great for other birds that rely on ready-made nest holes, and lay 3-4 white eggs.

Where to spot Black-backed Woodpeckers:  

The Black-backed Woodpecker is found in forests that have had fires in the last 8 years.

How to attract more Black-backed Woodpeckers to your backyard:

Black-backed Woodpeckers are not usually seen at backyard bird feeders as they eat mostly beetle larvae in burned forests.

23. Ivory-billed Woodpecker

Credit: James St.John

Ivory-billed Woodpeckers were considered critically endangered and do not migrate. They have been thought to have been seen along the Gulf Coast in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Florida.

Unfortunately, the process to declare them as extinct has started as no verified recordings have been found in many years.

How Frequently Woodpeckers are Spotted in North America in Summer and Winter

Checklists for the state are a great resource to find out which birds are commonly spotted. These lists show which woodpeckers are most commonly recorded on checklists for North America on ebird in summer and winter.

Woodpeckers in the United States in Summer:

Downy Woodpecker 20.4%
Red-bellied Woodpecker 20.4%
Northern Flicker 16.6%
Hairy Woodpecker 8.1%
Pileated Woodpecker 6.6%
Red-headed Woodpecker 2.9%
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2.1%
Acorn Woodpecker 2.0%

Woodpeckers in the United States in Winter:

Downy Woodpecker 25.5%
Red-bellied Woodpecker 21.5%
Northern Flicker 14.3%
Hairy Woodpecker 8.5%
Pileated Woodpecker 5.2%
Red-headed Woodpecker 1.3%
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 3.8%
Acorn Woodpecker 1.9%

Woodpeckers in Canada in Summer:

Northern Flicker 25.6%
Downy Woodpecker 17.7%
Hairy Woodpecker 10.5%
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 7.6%
Pileated Woodpecker 5.3%
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3.1%
Red-headed Woodpecker 0.7%

Woodpeckers in Canada in Winter:

Downy Woodpecker 27.4%
Hairy Woodpecker 18.6%
Northern Flicker 9.6%
Pileated Woodpecker 4.9%
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3.5%
Black-backed Woodpecker 0.3%
American Three-toed Woodpecker 0.3%

How to Attract Woodpeckers in North America to Your Backyard

There are so many choices of bird feeders and food that can make it difficult to know what is best to buy, so check out these options as the best for woodpeckers to save you time and stop you from wasting your money.

Best bird feeders to attract woodpeckers:

The best suet and birdseed to attract woodpeckers are:

Birdbaths to attract woodpeckers to your backyard:

  • An attractive pedestal birdbath will provide drinking and cleaning opportunities for woodpeckers
  • A heated birdbath for the winter is your best bet to provide drinking water that does not freeze.

Nest boxes to attract more woodpeckers to your backyard:

Native berry-producing plants to attract more woodpeckers to your backyard: