Florida Woodpeckers: Types of Woodpeckers in Florida

Last Updated on March 22, 2023 by Lily Aldrin

Seeing a woodpecker is a highlight of every birding trip. While they don’t have the dazzling hues of birds like warblers as well as vireos, they are nevertheless elegant and lovely to see. Regardless of the fact that they are all somewhat similar, their personalities appear to distinguish them.

They appear to be more a part of the natural environment than the robins, blackbirds, and other popular garden birds. Woodpeckers have a particular personality, with features that distinguish them from other bird species.

All songbirds, such as passerines, have three forward-facing toenails and one backward-facing toe, nestling adaptations. Woodpeckers possess “zygodactyl” feet, which have two claws pointing forward & two claws pointing back.

This allows them to grasp hold of a tree and climb or descend vertically. Furthermore, while woodpeckers make a variety of cries ranging from squeaky to raucous, they do not sing.

They let the songbirds sing as they drum because everyone understands that drummers are wired uniquely than the rest of the group.

There are 263 species of Picidae on the planet, varying in length from the 3-4 inch small Rufous Piculet in South Asia to a two-foot-long Royal Woodpecker of Mexico, which is now obsolete. In North America, there will be 23 kinds.

The benign small Downy woodpecker to the imposingly enormous Pileated woodpecker is among the woodpeckers that may be found in Florida. Woodpeckers have a strong identity, with characteristics that set them apart from the other bird species.

Let’s meet the woodpeckers that breed in or fly to Florida and learn about what makes them unique.

Northern FlickerNorthern Flicker
Ivory-Billed WoodpeckerIvory-Billed Woodpecker
Hairy WoodpeckerHairy Woodpecker
Red-cockaded WoodpeckerRed-cockaded Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied SapsuckerYellow-bellied Sapsucker
Pileated WoodpeckerPileated Woodpecker
Downy WoodpeckerDowny Woodpecker
Red-bellied WoodpeckerRed-bellied Woodpecker
Red-headed WoodpeckerRed-headed Woodpecker
Golden-Fronted WoodpeckerGolden-Fronted Woodpecker

Types of Woodpeckers in Florida

The ten woodpeckers may be found in most areas of Florida. We’ve included a birding hotspot for each species, a location where you can meet new woodpecker buddies while trekking and hiking in one of the state’s nature reserves.

1. Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

It’s easily mistaken a Northern Flicker for one Red-bellied Woodpecker upon first sight due to their similar body forms; however, the two birds have distinct plumage distinctions.


The Flicker has a spotted breast and a black-streaked brown back & wings, as well as a solid black band below its throat. The male and female flickers both have a grey crown on their otherwise whiteheads, and both have a bright red patch on the rear of their heads.

The appearance and call of a flicker can also be used to identify it. Unlike some other woodpeckers, it forages on the ground, typically in big groups, similar to robins.

It has a slightly bent beak and specific tongue modifications for catching ants and beetles. Flickers have been observed catching insects mid-flight and preying on bats as they depart their roosts.

Their cry is a lengthy, booming “Kikikiki!” that may be heard across its habitat’s vast fields. When wooing or protecting its territory, the bird flutters its wings and flashes its tail, earning it the name.


Northern Flickers come in two varieties in the United States: red-shafted and yellow-shafted. The varied colors may be seen on the undersides of the wings as well as tail feathers in flight, as well as in their tails.

The bright orange flickers are found in Florida, while the red-shafted flickers are generally found in the west; however, their ranges overlap in sections of the Midwest. Flickers, unlike most other woodpeckers, move regionally in search of food and may be found in Florida at any period of the year.

2. Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker
Credits – Phys.org

Although becoming one of the world’s biggest woodpeckers and the greatest in the United States in regard to size, these are classified as threatened with extinction by the IUCN Red List.

Even now, several specialists disagree over whether the Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers remain endangered. However, there have been several reports of Ivory-Billed Woodpecker sightings around Florida, despite the fact that the uncommon strain is thought to be down to less than 24 individuals.

Aside from its enormous size, the species is distinguished by its distinctive lustrous purplish-black feather covering, which is found in both males as well as females.

3. Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Understanding the distinction between a Hairy and a Downy Woodpecker is a component of “Bird Identification 101,” one of the fundamental skills that anybody who takes up birding as a pastime will learn early on.

Hairy woodpeckers are uncommon and don’t usually follow mixed wintertime flocks. The hairy should resemble the downy’s rougher big brother or sister as a rule of thumb for identification.


It is three to 4 inches longer than the downy, approximately the size of a robin, and has a more erect attitude while hanging to a tree, as well as a considerably larger and sharper beak than the downy.


The hairy has completely white tail feathers, but the downy’s tail is black save for a few white patches. Whereas the Hairy Woodpecker visits yard feeders as well, it prefers to scale taller and higher branches than its little relative.

The cries of the two birds are similar, but the Hairy Woodpecker’s cry is sharper and louder, as one might anticipate. While both species’ drumming has been measured at around 25 beats per sec, the bigger bird’s pounding is loud enough for humans are able to hear.

4. Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

Since 1970, red-cockaded woodpeckers have really been categorized as a vulnerable variety, and Florida is one of the very few remaining habitats. They resemble Hairy or Downy Woodpeckers in shape, but their black & white feathers are devoid of red markings.

Their name derives from a little red stripe on the male bird’s head called a “cockade,” which is an ancient word for a hat ribbon or adornment. They communicate with a harsh “Pewww!” sound, which is louder & sharper than other little woodpecker calls.

Their quiet drumming has been compared to that of an amplified rattlesnake, which is really made by vibrating the tongue against a tree while eating insects. The Red-cockaded Woodpecker’s constrained environment is one of the reasons for its threat to survival.


The birds exclusively build their nests in pine tree stands, generally where lightning has left minimal underbrush beneath high trees.

Longleaf pine stands are previously prevalent in Florida as well as other southern regions, but most of this habitat has been logged and developed. These birds are currently mostly restricted to protected woods and parks throughout the state.

5. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Because Downy Woodpeckers are already so abundant and friendly, they are usually a birdwatcher’s initial assumption when a black or white bird with an oscillating up & down flying pattern glides into the garden.

Your second suggestion would be a Hairy Woodpecker if the bird has a lengthy beak and appears to be too large to be a Downy Woodpecker. If the bird does have deep red neck and head patches, and a yellow band all across the top of its chest, and is hibernating in Florida, you’ve just seen a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Sapsuckers are the only fully migratory woodpeckers in North America. They come south to spend the wintertime in the Sunshine State, like so many other human “snowbirds” in the Northeast.

What they do gives them their moniker. To roost and establish nests, all woodpeckers create nesting holes in trees, but the majority of them feed by nibbling away at the bark and scooping up the insects beneath.

The sapsucker drills a succession of holes in trees with its long spiked bill to feed on the sap that pours out of the holes, as well as the bugs caught in the sap, which is something the bird gathers up with its brush-like tongue.

If you notice a horizontal series of holes in a tree’s top trunk, you can be sure it’s the activity of your neighboring sapsucker. Hummingbirds, which accompany the sapsuckers & eat from the small excavations, benefit from these openings, which are termed “sap wells.”


Sapsuckers, on the other hand, dig sap wells incessantly and can often destroy a tree while eating from it. The distinctive feature that gives Yellow-bellied sapsuckers the name, like Red-bellied woodpeckers, is a faint tint of color.

The females possess a red crown; however, lack the male’s red neck patch & yellow chest stripe. Both genders interact by making a loud “mewing” voice that sounds like a distressed cat.

The sapsucker’s pounding is shorter, less percussive, and unpredictable than those of other woodpeckers, but they often intensify the sound by banging on iron signs and chimneys flashing.

6. Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

You’ve been engrossed with Florida’s most remarkable woodpecker if you heard what sounded like God’s knuckles hammering on a tree or witness a big bird in flight that appears like a prehistoric crow having long, extended fingers.

The Pileated Woodpecker possesses a massive bill to match its massive head. Both the male as well as female have a black and white design on their heads, as well as white undersides of their wings. The male has a red mustache, while the female has a vivid red “pompadour” crown.

“Wuk!Wuk!Wuk!Wuk!” they scream. Their pounding is a little slower than that of lesser woodpeckers, but in the correct conditions, its deep & resonating tone may be heard for miles.

Pileated Woodpeckers bore rectangular holes in dead trees in pursuit of ants as well as other insects, occasionally causing the tree to split in half. Smaller birds typically exploit the cavities formed by these large birds as a source of food.

 Pileated Woodpeckers will occasionally attend home suet feeders, despite their wild look. And, in case you’re wondering, the comic Woody Woodpecker is inspired by their look and insane cry.

7. Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpeckers, the tiniest of Florida’s indigenous woodpeckers, are great at establishing friends. Chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches are among the species that form mixed flocks in the winter, as are chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches.

Feeding together offers the advantage of providing more eyes to keep an eye out for predators. The flock leaders are generally the chickadees in the flock, due to their attentive demeanor and proclivity for locating food.

While the Downy Woodpecker may be leaping up the tree with its back to a hawk, the chickadee is located at the top of the branch with a 360-degree view, and that will be the first to notify the others of any possible danger.

Mixed wintry flocks have really been educated to eat from people’s hands since these birds are all quite comfortable around humans.


The body form of the Downy Woodpecker is similar to that of bigger woodpeckers; however, it is shrunk down in size of a small sparrow. The male and female both have a pale white chest, black feathers featuring white markings, and a white patch on an apparently black back.

The male, like many other woodpeckers, has a red patch on his black and white head. Although their drumming is rarely audible, they may be distinguished by their high-pitched “Pip-Pip-Pip!” cry.

The male and female, like other woodpeckers, spend days incubating a nest of four to 6 eggs, which might hatch in as little as 12 days. Young birds can depart the nest as soon as 3 weeks after hatching, but they remain near to their parents during the first few days before venturing out on their own.

8. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

In Florida, the Red-bellied Woodpecker is now the most prevalent woodpecker. It often let everyone know whenever it is in town with its loud banging and ear-piercing “Churrr!” cry. Its apparently scarlet belly is actually white with merely a tint of red.


Both males, as well as females, possess black back & wing plumage with flowing white bars, and both genders have white bursts on their wingtips.

The male does have a flash of red plumage on the back of his head and over his beak, whereas the female just possesses them on the right side of the head as well as over the beak.

The red-bellied woodpecker is distinguished from other woodpeckers by its undulating, up-and-down flying pattern and projecting finger-like points on its fluffy feathers. This is a strategy for conserving energy when flying. To ward off rivals and predators, the Red-bellied Flycatcher will gently circle its tree.

While it produces one of the louder drum sounds, banging off 19 beats per second, the bird feeds mostly by gently plucking insects out of bark with such a barbed tongue that may be coated with sticky salvia and extend to nearly twice the length of its beak.


Suet, nuts, and sesame seeds attract Red-bellied Woodpeckers to backyard bird feeders. Apart from songbirds, birds may seize the bottom of a feeder with their zygodactyl claws, then stow the nuts and seeds they collect in the cracks of the bark with their lengthy tongue.


Their wide variety of habitats, from banks of rivers and wetlands to deciduous woodlands, agricultural fields, and urban parkland, along with their omnivore food, has helped them maintain a steady population and make them one of the most successful common birds.

A similar bird, the Golden-fronted Woodpecker, which is primarily found in Mexico as well as Central America, has already been identified as a transient species in Florida. According to Wikipedia, a male Golden-fronted Woodpecker mated with a native Red-bellied Woodpecker and raised a family in the state.

9. Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-Headed Woodpecker

The Red-headed Woodpecker can’t be confused with any of its Picidae relatives. It has a slender black & white physique with a rich, deep cherry red beak, making it a distinctive and unusual bird.

It’s one of the very few woodpeckers that don’t have a gender difference in appearance. Its cry is comparable to the Red-bellied Woodpecker’s “Churrr!” but is smaller and harsher.

Similar to Downy as well as Hairy Woodpeckers, although substantially louder, the drumming lasts roughly 19-25 beats every sec in repeating intervals. It will beat on metal surfaces to magnify the sound, similar to sapsuckers.


It, like flickers, loves to build its nest in trees near fields, farms, and other open areas. “Red-heads” are clever birds known for hoarding food under tree bark and even under roof tiles. Despite their preference for Florida’s vast marshes and wetlands, their numbers have been declining for years.

The clearance of tree stumps, as well as competition for nest cavities from starlings as well as other species, are suggested to be contributing factors. These birds are periodically injured by autos when they fly out to catch insects.

10. Golden-Fronted Woodpecker

Golden Fronted Woodpecker

The Golden-Fronted Woodpecker, which resembles the northern flicker in appearance, brings the list to a close. The majority of these woodpeckers may be found in Texas & Louisiana. They are, however, infrequently seen in Florida.

As a result, they are recognized as unexpected species by the Florida Ornithological Society but have yet to be added to the state’s official list. Golden-Fronted Woodpeckers have banded black & white backs with something like a tan chest, and both males, as well as females, have them.

They may be distinguished from Northern Flickers by the absence of a black spot on the chest and streaking below. Vibrant yellow dots appear above the beak and on the neck of these woodpeckers. Males, on the other hand, have an additional red crown.

Final Words

You could have seen a woodpecker much bigger than that of the Pileated a hundred years earlier, as well as some intrepid paleontologists, believes you still can. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker used to be found in southern highland pine woods and flooding cypress swamps.

By the turn of the last century, it was deemed scarce, and it was proclaimed defunct in 1944. However, accounts of humans seeing or hearing the bird throughout the years have inspired ornithologists to continue hunting for it deep in the wilds of Florida as well as Orleans.

Two Floridians claimed a series of sightings with what they thought was a pair of Ornately Woodpeckers near Highlands County around 1967 to 1969.

After a hurricane damaged the tree where the birds were purportedly roosting, a feather presumed to belong to one of the birds was discovered and is now on exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

The fact that the feather could not be dated was insufficient proof that the birds were present. The bad news is that you have a little chance of spotting an Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Florida.

The good news is that the Sunshine State still has a fascinating diversity of woodpeckers to examine, as well as some fantastic spots to see them, from woodlands and marshlands to the feeders beyond the living room windowsill.


Is it usual to see Pileated Woodpeckers in Florida?

Pileated woodpeckers could very well be found across Florida; they are among the least choosy woodpeckers in regard to habitat, & they can even be found in big towns or in high-traffic regions. They like to hunt for food and reside among the limbs and dead trees of trees.

When you see a woodpecker, what does it mean?

The woodpecker is connected with desires, luck, wealth, and spiritual healing in many ancient civilizations. The woodpecker is a symbol of hard labor, endurance, strength, and tenacity in other civilizations. Woodpeckers are amongst the world’s most clever and intelligent birds.

In the winter, where do pileated woodpeckers go?

They prefer old woods with massive trees, although they may also be found in young forests with snags and decaying wood, as well as suburban areas with wooded sections. Pileated woodpeckers stay put throughout winter, no matter where they live.

Is it true that Pileated Woodpeckers share their food?

Both the male and female will feed the nestlings. The chicks will leave the nest after 24 to 28 days. Adults and children will remain together until the fall. The parent birds will keep feeding them and teach youngsters how and where to find their proper food throughout this period.

What are the characteristics of Florida woodpeckers?

The Red-Bellied Goose is a bird with a red belly. With a year-round population, woodpeckers are one of the most common varieties of woodpeckers in Florida. Their light grey heads and underparts are distinguished by reddish caps that extend from their chin to their neck in males as well as from the red area on the hairline in females.

About Lily Aldrin

I am Lily Aldrin. I attended Cornell University, where I obtained my degree to become an Ornithologist so I could pursue my love of these magnificent creatures in and out of their natural habitats.

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