14 Types of Woodpeckers in North America

Last Updated on October 6, 2022 by Lily Aldrin

North American woodpeckers come in a variety of sizes, appearances, and habitats. Some, like the red-headed woodpecker, stand out and are simple to identify.

Others, like the hairy and downy woodpeckers, however, have a very similar appearance.

It’s beneficial to have woodpeckers nearby to maintain the ecosystem’s equilibrium.

In fact, some individuals believe that seeing a woodpecker heralds success and fortune.

Woodpeckers consume a range of insects, including those that may harm wood, in addition to other things. Additionally, several species exploit the old woodpecker nesting chambers.

A woodpecker doesn’t always indicate that you have termites if they are pecking on your home. It can consume ants and spiders in addition to other insects. Alternatively, it can be territorial pecking.

A woodpecker-specific feeder, like a suet cage, may entice woodpeckers to your home. Avoid using pesticides and insecticides to protect the health of the birds. Plant nut- and berry-producing plants; woodpeckers like eating the acorns from oak trees.

As far as they don’t represent a safety danger, keep dead trees in place since woodpeckers need them as breeding and feeding locations.

Here are the 14 different species of woodpeckers found in North America.

ImageName
Red-Headed WoodpeckerRed-Headed Woodpecker
Woodpecker PileatedWoodpecker Pileated
Red-Bellied WoodpeckerRed-Bellied Woodpecker
Rough-Headed WoodpeckerRough-Headed Woodpecker
FlickersFlickers
SapsuckerSapsucker
Downy WoodpeckerDowny Woodpecker
Hairy WoodpeckerHairy Woodpecker
Lewis WoodpeckerLewis Woodpecker
Acorns WoodpeckerAcorns Woodpecker
Gila WoodpeckerGila Woodpecker
Three-Toed WoodpeckerThree-Toed Woodpecker
Black-Backed WoodpeckerBlack-Backed Woodpecker
Golden Face WoodpeckerGolden Face Woodpecker

Types of Woodpeckers in North America

1. Red-Headed Woodpecker

Red-Headed Woodpecker

Size: 7.1 to 9.2 inches

Identification marks:  Adults feature a white stomach, big white wing spots, a black back, and a brilliant red head. Unlike the majority of woodpeckers, which have more complex patterns, these big areas of one color stand out.

Diet: Diet consists of nuts that are known to store in the autumn and wood-boring insects. Unlike many other woodpeckers, they spend time flying and perching out to grab insects in flight.

They have also been seen hiding grasshoppers in wood crevices and behind roof tiles!

Habitat: Swamps, pine plantations, open forests, orchards, standing timber in beaver bogs, and river sides.

Location: Despite being significantly less frequent around New England, the eastern portion of the U.S.

Nesting: 4 to 7 eggs, hidden behind cavities between dead limbs or trees.

Interesting Red-Headed Woodpecker Facts

When other woodpeckers or other birds visit their nest, they frequently act aggressively against them.

Due to their fierce territoriality, these woodpeckers would fight and even steal eggs from neighboring nests of other species. Unfortunately, they are declining throughout the country, particularly throughout the Northeast.

When it comes to competing for nesting sites, they encounter the same difficulty as many other species. However, this specific species only lay eggs in dead trees, an environment that is rapidly disappearing.

Dead or decaying trees are frequently removed from properties for firewood, to deter specific blight insects, to lessen the risk of a fire, or just for aesthetic purposes.

2. Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Size: 16 to 19 inches (one of the biggest North American woodpeckers)

Identification marks: Mostly black with a red crown, a white-collar band, a face striped in white and black, and white wing linings. There is a crimson “mustache” on men.

Diet: Ants, other invertebrates that consume wood and certain fruit.

Habitat: Large-tree woods that are mature.

Location: Among Canada, the eastern half of the United States, and the northern part of the western coast.

Nesting: Cavities carved out of the dead trunks or branches of living trees contain 3 to 8 eggs. Wood chips line the hole.

Facts to Know Regarding Pileated Woodpeckers

These enormous woodpeckers can create holes that are up to 7 inches wide. If you have ever had the opportunity to see one working on a tree, it’s an incredible sight to behold since wood chips shoot out in a spray that resembles a stump grinder.

Occasionally they make their holes in trees so deeply that they unintentionally have the ability to split tiny trees in two. They like ancient, big trees in mature forests.

When the majority of the mature woods were felled by logging and woodlands were removed to make way for farms, the late 18th and 19th centuries saw the loss of a large portion of their habitat.

The Pileated woodpeckers have started appearing and are apparently adjusting to younger woods and trees as farm fields have started to diminish and forests have reappeared.

3. Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Size: 8.6 to 10.2 inches

Identification marks: Black and white back with bars and spots, light chest. Because you’ll struggle to notice it unless they’re in the correct posture, they possess a small crimson abdomen that lends them their name.

Read:  7 Different Species of Woodpeckers in Illinois

Males have a dark red hood that runs from the beak through the neck, whereas females only have a hood at the nape of their neck.

Diet: Fruit, insects, and seeds.

Habitat: orchards, trees, parkland, farms, and open forests that provide shade. Thrives in suburban areas and enjoys trees and shrubs.

Location: Southern New England and the eastern section of the United States.

Nesting: 3 to 8 eggs are hatched in a hole in a decaying tree branch, trunk, or even utility pole.

Fascinating Facts About Red-Bellied Woodpecker

They have a tongue that may extend up to two inches beyond the end of their beak! They may utilize the hard spike at the end, which is long and pointed, to stab beetles and grasshoppers. Even the pulp from oranges has been reported to be lathered out with this tongue.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers regularly use bird feeders in search of seeds and suet, particularly during the winter.

4. Rough-Headed Woodpecker

Rough-Headed Woodpecker
Credits – Wikipedia

Size: 8 to 8.5 inches.

Identification marks: Black and white with bold patterns, a white cheek that stands out, and a barred rear. In males, the rear of the crest has a little red patch.

Diet: Boring insects for wood.

Habitat: clear-cut pine woodlands

Location: United States Southeast.

Nesting: A live pine’s rotting heartwood contains two to five eggs. Breeds throughout scattered colonies in towering pine tree stands; nest holes might well be utilized for a number of years.

Interesting Red-Cocaded Woodpecker Facts

Only open pine forests may be home to this unique and sadly decreasing woodpecker. These unusual woodpeckers hunt for pine trees having red-heart disease, fungi that damage the heartwood and make it simpler for the woodpeckers to extract and dig the wood for their intricate nesting holes.

Although the red heart is a very prevalent disease in trees 70 years and older, many pine woodlands are now cleared of their trees before they reach that age. The actual open pine woods are becoming smaller.

Four Red-cockaded woodpecker breeding groups, all of which are found throughout the southern United States, are thought to be the only ones still in existence.

Since 1973, they have mostly been classified as a threatened species.

5. Flickers

Northern Flicker

Size: 10 to 14 inches.

Identification marks: Tanish-brown having big, black crescent-shaped markings on the chest, black spots and bars on the abdomen, and black banding on the back.

The underside of the wings is either red or yellow, depending on the subspecies. (Red throughout the west and south and yellow mostly in the east and north. Depending on the subspecies, males will possess a mustache on their faces, whilst females really don’t.

Diet: Fruit, nuts, seeds, and other insects like ants.

Habitat: Deserts, forests, and suburbs.

Location: Northern Flicker may be found all throughout parts of Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Very southern Nevada, northernmost Mexico, and all of Arizona are all covered by the Gilded Flicker.

Nesting: In arid settings, 3 to 14 eggs are laid in a hollow in wood or cactus.

Interesting Flickers Facts

Flickers come in three different subspecies. There are “yellow-shafted” and “red-shafted” variations of the Northern Flicker.

The yellow-shafted is often found throughout the east, whereas the red-shafted is primarily found throughout the west.

There’s also the Gilded Flicker, which lives largely in enormous cactus woodlands, mostly in the southwestern US and northern Mexico.

The northern flicker is one of North America’s rare migrating woodpeckers. During the winter, birds throughout the northern portions of their habitat will migrate farther south.

Flickers frequently prefer to locate food on the ground, which is another unique characteristic about them.

Flickers will burrow in the ground to discover ants, then eat them with their long tongues. In comparison to other North American birds, they are said to eat more ants!

6. Sapsuckers

Rough-naped Sapsucker
Credits – Birdzilla

Size: 8 to 9 inches

Diet: insects, sap, and fruit.

Habitat: forests and Woods.

Nesting: Lays 4 to 9 eggs in living tree holes. Aspen trees are what they favor.

Identification Of Marks:

Black and white with a white wing pattern, yellow-bellied. Males have a white neck, while females have a red crown.

Red-naped: The striking black, white, and red face coloring and patchy white plumage on the back separate it from the red-breasted sapsucker.

Red-breasted: Mainly red head and chest; striking white shoulder slash. The back is mostly black with some white mottling.

Williamson’s: The male of this species is primarily black with a big white wing spot, two white stripes across the face, a red neck, and a yellow belly. The female does have a yellow belly, a black and white banded back, and a brown forehead.

Location

Yellow-bellied: The majority of Mexico, Canada, and the eastern portion of the United States.

Southern British Columbia, the western U.S. (apart from the coast), and south to Mexico are all home to red-naped species.

Read:  8 Different Species of Woodpeckers in Tennessee (TN)

Red-breasted: The Canadian and far western U.S. coasts.

Williamson’s: Southward towards Mexico along the route of the Rocky Mountains.

Facts To Know Regarding Sapsuckers

Throughout North America, there are 4 distinct species of sapsuckers: Williamson’s, Red-naped (primarily western), Yellow-bellied (mainly eastern), and Red-breasted (only west side) (along the Rocky Mountains).

They don’t literally “suck” sap; instead, they lick it with tiny bristly hairs that stick out of their tongues. They enlarge the trunk of a tree by drilling rows of uniformly spaced horizontal and vertical cavities. They’ll lick it away as the sap pours out.

Additionally, the sap has the ability to attract insects, which might then get entangled in it and become debilitated, at which point woodpeckers may readily eat them.

7. Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Size: The tiniest woodpecker throughout North America is 6 to 7 inches.

Identification marks: Short beak, black and white top portions with a long white vertical band along the center of the back, striped black and white face, and all-white underparts. The nape band on males is crimson.

Diet: insects that consume wood, seeds, and fruit.

Habitat: Orchards, parks, and open forests.

Location: In the vast majority of Canada and the United States

Nesting: In a cavity or even a birdhouse, 3 to 8 eggs are hatched.

Facts Regarding Downy Woodpeckers That Are Fascinating

The majority of the nation is home to Downy’s, who are happy to frequent bird feeders for suet and seeds. They always have been one of the first birds to appear wherever I have relocated and set up my feeders.

They are frequently observed consuming hummingbird feeder nectar as well.

Although Downy Woodpeckers do dig into trunks as other woodpeckers do, their preferred method of food is to pluck flies and larvae from cracks in the bark.

8. Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Size: 8.5 to 10 inches

Identification marks: White line along the back, all-white abdomen, and black wings containing white patches. On their neck, males get a crimson patch.

Diet: seeds, insects, and berries that eat wood.

Habitat: mature woodlands, orchards, and parkland.

Location: Mexico is present in parts of most of the United States and Canada.

Nesting: Eggs are laid in a tree hollow on a bed of wood pellets.

Facts You Should Know About Hairy Woodpeckers

Nearly comparable in appearance to the tiny Downy woodpecker is the Hairy. Their notably longer bill and greater overall size help to identify them.

It has been observed that sometimes, they would accompany Pileated Woodpeckers as they make a hole, waiting for them to complete before they explore and search for invertebrates the Pileated may have overlooked.

9. Lewis Woodpecker

Lewis's Woodpecker
Credits – Wikipedia

Size: 10 to 11 inches.

Identification marks: Gray collar and breasts, a red face, a pinkish tummy, and a back that is dark glossy green. Wings have wide, rounded tips.

Diet: insects captured in flight or plucked off the bark. Hardly ever chisels wood. Nuts and berries. Acorns comprise approximately a third of the diet and are kept in tree crevices.

Habitat: groves, strewn-treed regions, and open pine forests.

Location: American West

Nesting: 5 to 9 eggs in a coniferous tree or stump hollow.

Interesting Lewis’s Woodpecker Facts

Lewis’s woodpeckers exhibit a variety of distinctive traits, including peculiar color and behavior. Instead of an undulating flying pattern like other woodpeckers, they get a smooth, steady flight.

Other woodpeckers need not perch on wires or other exposed perches, but Lewis’s will.

As gregarious woodpeckers, they frequently exist in family groupings.

Meriweather Lewis, one-half of the renowned explorer’s Lewis & Clark, inspired the naming of this rare woodpecker. This bird’s legendary migration through the western United States during 1805 is described in his first written record of it. Visit this blog on lewis-clark.org to learn further.

10. Acorns Woodpecker

Acorns Woodpecker

Size: 8 to 9.5 inches.

Identification marks: Black above with a red cap as well as a black mask that shows through the eyes, with a yellow neck and head, and light color eyes. All-black gloss with such a white rump and streaks over the chest.

Diet: Acorns, insects, and fruit.

Habitat: Valleys, groves, and oak forests.

Location: U.S. west coast stretches from Mexico all the way to Central America.

Nesting: 4 to 6 eggs are deposited in a dead oak or another tree or in a hole.

Exciting Facts About Acorn Woodpeckers

3 to 10 birds make up an acorn woodpecker colony.

They cooperate in gathering and preserving acorns, a crucial diet during the winter. The gang has enough acorns stored up to last for many months. Acorns are stuffed into small holes that have been drilled onto tree trunks.

All group individuals will take shifts incubating eggs and nursing the babies during nesting, demonstrating the cooperative nature of the species. Up to 50,000 acorns have now been spotted on “granary trees” by experts.

Read:  10 Types of Woodpeckers in California (Northern & Southern)

11. Gila Woodpecker

Gila Woodpecker
Credits – Wikipedia

Size: 8.1 to 9.5 inches.

Identification marks: Males do have a back with black and white bars, a red cap, and a brown neck and face.

Diet: Fruit, insects, seeds, and lizards.

Habitat: Huge cactus in the desert, dry subtropical woods, and woodlands.

Location: North-eastern Mexico towards southern Arizona.

Nesting: 2 to 7 eggs in a tree or cactus hollow.

Interesting Facts On Gila Woodpeckers

Gilas seldom live in the nest holes they cut out of saguaro cacti for more than a few months. This forms sturdy, rigid walls within the hollow and allows the interior pulp time to dry.

Based on the North American Nesting Bird Survey, Gila Woodpecker numbers decreased by roughly 49% between 1966 and 2014. They are not yet considered a bird of concern, even though their population is still large enough.

Two-thirds of the population reside throughout Mexico and one-third in the United States. Their habitat is being diminished by human development in the Sonoran Desert. Additionally, they are vigorously rivaled for nesting holes by the non-native European starlings.

12. Three-Toed Woodpecker

American Three-toed Woodpecker
Credits – Wikipedia

Size: 8.2 to 9.2 inches.

Identification marks: barred black and white flanks, white underparts, and a black back with a white and black bar in its middle. The head is black with a white brow. Male wearing a yellow hat.

Diet: insects that eat spiders, fruit, and wood.

Habitat: woodlands of fir trees.

Location: Along the Rocky Mountain corridor, much of Alaska and Canada are included.

Nesting: 3 to 8 eggs are hatched in a tree hollow lined with wood fibers or chips.

Interesting Facts on Three-Toed Woodpeckers

More than almost any other woodpecker, the three-toed woodpecker nests in northern Canada and Alaska.

Many woodpeckers have 4 twos, two of which point to the front and two of which point back. This woodpecker just has three toes, as the name would imply, and all of them point forward.

To locate food, they like to flake that off bark using their bills rather than digging deeply into trees. Typically, only choose dead or dying trees.

13. Black-Backed Woodpecker

Black-Backed Woodpecker

Size: 10.1 to 9.3 inches

Identification marks: Black on the wings, tail, and back. Mainly white underparts have black and white banded flanks with a white whisker marking on a black skull and a male with a yellow hat.

Diet: berries, spiders, and other wood-boring insects.

Habitat: Forests of fir trees.

Location: Alaska, several regions of the northwestern United States, and northern California are all across Canada.

Nesting: 2 to 6 holes, seldom rising beyond 15 feet.

Interesting Black-Backed Woodpecker Facts

These woodpeckers and three-toed woodpeckers share a lot of characteristics. They also only possess three toes at the front.

Additionally, they favor flaking tree bark over drilling when removing it. Therefore, black-backs particularly like burned-over places.

Following epidemics of wood-boring insects in freshly burned-out environments, they travel from one location to another.

If their favorite food supply declines or if there is an excess that leads to a growing population and the demand for habitat, they will migrate far south of their usual habitat into the United States.

14. Golden Face Woodpecker

Golden Fronted Woodpecker

Size: 8.5 to 10.1 inches

Identification marks: fronted in gold, woodpeckers may be distinguished mostly by the gold markings above and behind their beaks. The cheeks, back, and underparts of banded black and white birds are greyish browns. Men wear red caps.

Diet: acorns, fruit, and insects.

Habitat: Groves, dry forests, and mesquite.

Location: Southern and central Texas extends into the eastern part of Mexico.

Nesting: In a dead trunk branch, fencing post, or telephone pole, there are 4 to 7 eggs.

Interesting Golden Fronted Woodpecker Facts

These woodpeckers like building their nests on wooden posts and power lines. They occasionally dig into them so regularly that significant harm results. They carve out a hollow that is 6 to 18 inches deep or even deeper.

Several of these woodpeckers finish up with purple stains on their cheeks during Texas summertime from consuming a diet of spiky pear cactus fruits.

Conclusion

North America is home to a wide variety of woodpecker species. Although the woodpecker family of birds shares certain similar traits, each species may be rather different!

They come in a variety of sizes and colors, from little to huge. You will be able to detect or identify any woodpecker near your home after reading this article.

FAQ

Across North America, how many different species of woodpeckers are there?

A picture list of every native species of woodpecker found throughout the United States. There are 23 native woodpecker species in the United States, with the exception of stray species. Despite the differences in shape and behavior, the majority of these birds are common and simple to locate.

What is the rarest woodpecker?

Severely threatened in recent years, the ivory-billed woodpecker has gone from being almost completely unknown to being a celebrity thanks to reports from birders of sightings of the supposedly extinct species.

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.