10 Types of Woodpeckers in Ontario, Canada (with Pictures)

Woodpeckers are intriguing birds that can hammer trees with their heads using approximately 1000g of power.

That is a lot of power. In comparison, 100g of force would result in brain damage in a person.

Throughout Ontario, ten species of woodpeckers have been seen. Nine of these are listed as commonly appearing on state checklists, while one more is listed as unusual or accidental.

The best approach to view woodpeckers across Ontario is to go birding within woodlands and forests. However, certain species, like Downy Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Hairy Woodpeckers, may be observed on garden feeders on a daily basis.

This guide can assist you in identifying the species of woodpeckers found throughout Ontario.

Woodpeckers generate unique drumming noises, particularly in the spring when they’re courting. Male and female woodpeckers both generate hammering noises. If you’d like to learn more about these amazing birds, here are a few nasty woodpecker facts.

To assist you in identifying all of the birds that come to your garden, you may get a free bird recognition picture guide for Ontario.

Within Ontario, the Downy Woodpecker has been more usually seen in the winter, while the Northern Flicker and numerous different species are far more frequently seen during summer.

Continue reading to learn all there is to know regarding woodpeckers across Ontario, including photographs and fascinating facts.

Downy WoodpeckerDowny Woodpecker
Lewis’s WoodpeckerLewis’s Woodpecker
Hairy WoodpeckerHairy Woodpecker
American Three-toed WoodpeckerAmerican Three-toed Woodpecker
Northern FlickerNorthern Flicker
Black-backed WoodpeckerBlack-backed Woodpecker
Red-bellied WoodpeckerRed-bellied Woodpecker
Red-headed WoodpeckerRed-headed Woodpecker
Pileated WoodpeckerPileated Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied SapsuckerYellow-bellied Sapsucker

Types of Woodpeckers in Ontario

1. Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpeckers are widespread throughout the year across Ontario, particularly in woodlands and parkland during the winter.

During the winter, they are among the most commonly sighted woodpecker across Ontario, appearing on 31% of bird watchers’ checklists. They are 2nd in the summer checklists, while 20% of winter appear.

This woodpecker possesses white and black markings on its back, primarily black with a white patch. Males get a red spot on the back of their skulls.

These birds do have smaller beaks and are smaller than other species. Their stomachs are white, while their backs are mostly black with white streaks and spots. Male has conspicuous red patches on their head’s back; however, females usually don’t have them.

Although it looks pretty similar to the Hairy Woodpecker, it is small and has a shorter beak as compared to other woodpeckers. since they are widespread and can be more likely to visit the garden feeder.

Downy Woodpeckers are ubiquitous in Canada and the US. They aren’t really abundant at Canada’s northern or southern Mexico borders.


Downy Woodpeckers might be spotted in a wide range of habitats across Ontario. They are found mainly in deciduous woodlands near a water source. These birds, however, have adapted well to human society and may be seen among suburban gardens, orchards, parkland, and cemeteries.

They produce a loud pik voice and whinny cry and are usually busy, rendering them interesting to see. Downy Woodpeckers make their own nests within dead tree openings and hatch 3 to 7 small white eggs.


These woodpeckers usually feed on insects, specifically larvae, fruits, nuts, cereals, and acorns. They can sometimes be spotted sipping nectar from hummingbird backyard feeders.

2. Lewis’s Woodpecker

Lewis's Woodpecker
Credits – Wikipedia

Lewis’s Woodpeckers are reported as incidental species within Ontario, with the most recent observation in 2011, according to Published Ontario Bird Records Data.

Lewis’s Woodpeckers seem to be a separate type of bird, collecting bugs on the flight instead of pounding on trees. Then there’s the pink stomach, black back, and grey collar with a dark red head to distinguish it from the rest of the pack.

Lewis Woodpeckers may be spotted from British Columbia all the way down through Texas and California. Before traveling south towards the southwestern states, they prefer to nest farther north across British Columbia, south to Nevada, and east to Wyoming.

Those near the Pacific Coast, as well as those located in the southeast of their habitat, prefer to stay throughout the year.

Acorn Woodpeckers consume nuts and fruit along with flying insects, and they hide them inside the cracks of cottonwoods throughout the winter.

Lewis’s Woodpeckers don’t build their nests, instead to use those built by other birds and hatch 5 to 9 eggs.

3. Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpeckers resemble soldiers in looks, with finely patterned heads and an upright, straight-backed stance when on trees. Their bodies are mostly white and black, with chisel-like beaks. Males can be differentiated through a red spot on their forehead’s back that females usually don’t have.

During the winter, Hairy Woodpeckers are indeed the second most common woodpecker across Ontario, appearing on more than 18% of checklists. They occur on just 10% of summer checklists; however, they never migrate.


Hairy Woodpeckers may be found within mature woods, urban parks, orchards, residential gardens, wetlands, and even cemeteries across Ontario. They may be found in pretty much any place there are a lot of huge trees.

Hairy Woodpeckers are identical to Downy Woodpeckers in looks; however, they are relatively bigger and possess a longer beak. It is hard to distinguish them because they are mostly present in the same regions.

Hairy is bigger, measuring 9 to 11 inches long, approximately the same proportion as an American Robin. A Downy is small and just 6 to 7 inches in length, making it somewhat larger than a House Sparrow.


The Hairy Woodpecker’s diet consists primarily of invertebrates such as ants, beetle larvae, and bark beetles, although they may also consume moth pupae, bees, spiders, caterpillars, and millipedes.

A brief, quick “peek” is the most typical call. This sound is identical to that of a Downy Woodpecker but somewhat lower in intensity. They also emit a harsh rattling or whiny sound.

This woodpecker builds its nest in the hollow of dead trees or tree pieces and usually lays 3 to 6 white eggs.

Many Hairy Woodpeckers will visit your garden if you plant black oil sunflower seeds.

4. American Three-toed Woodpecker

American Three-toed Woodpecker
Credits – Wikipedia

American Three-toed Woodpeckers are relatively uncommon across Ontario; however, they never migrate and can only be observed in provincial parks.

On the tops of their heads, males have one yellow crown, while females get a black crown containing white dots and stripes. They are white on the inside, having black coloring on the sides.

They resemble Black-backed Woodpeckers but seem to be smaller. Females get a black head and no yellow spot.


American Three-toed Woodpeckers may be found amid conifer trees. These birds may be found in disturbed regions, such as coniferous woods. This is due to the abundance of fallen trees and limbs in these areas, which draw beetle larvae on which these birds feed on.

They scratch at dying or dead trees until parts of their bark fall off, allowing them to reach the insects (and occasionally sap) underneath. A tree having bands of black outer bark and paler interior bark is a strong indicator that these species are around.

They are highly strong despite their tiny size because they possess three toes rather than four, allowing them to lean back farther.

They are like insect-infested woodlands that have been destroyed by water, fire, or storms. They don’t really migrate and hatch up to four eggs during the months of June.

5. Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Northern Flickers are beautiful birds that are very frequent across Ontario. They are about the size of an American Robin and possess a patterned abdomen and a black bib.

Northern Flickers are year-round inhabitants of Ontario, and they’re the most often sighted woodpecker, mostly in summer, featuring on 23% of bird watchers’ checklists.

These woodpeckers seem to differ based on where you are. You should look for either the Yellow-shafted or Red-shafted woodpecker.

Northern Flickers are huge brown woodpeckers who possess black-spotted plumage and on their back a whitish spot which can be observed during flying, and a red nape of the throat in males.

Depending on where these woodpeckers visit, Northern Flickers have a yellow or red flash on their tails and wings. The west is home to red-shafted birds, whereas the east is the nesting ground of yellow-shafted species.


These birds are distinct and do not behave like conventional woodpeckers. They spend a significant amount of time burrowing through the ground to find ants and insects in the rainforest! They beat at the dirt in the same manner as other woodpeckers dig into the wood.

They will be observed throughout the US states as well as Canada, but those that nest in Canada migrate south during winter.

Northern Flickers have a piercing ringing cry that resembles “wicka-wicka-wicka.”

Northern Flickers have a piercing shriek and a loud ringing cry. They make their own nests in tree crevices and hatch five to eight white eggs.

They usually eat beetles, ants, seeds, and fruits and may often be observed digging them up with their beak.

6. Black-backed Woodpecker

Black-Backed Woodpecker

These woodpeckers are experts at locating previously burnt regions even weeks after the fire has passed. These birds feed on the wood-boring beetles, which begin to infest decaying trees.

The food is so delicious that Black-backed Woodpeckers might linger in certain regions for as long as eight years after the first fire.

Although not abundant across Ontario, Black-backed Woodpeckers may be found, mostly in the province’s south.


Black-backed Woodpeckers are tiny enough to be mistaken for robins, and their black back helps them blend in. These woodpeckers are rather simple to recognize since, as the name implies, they have a totally black back. Males get a noticeable yellow spot on the tops of their heads that females do not have.

Black-backed Woodpeckers don’t really migrate and are found mostly in Alaska and Canada as well as certain portions of the Western United States as far south as California.

They periodically migrate south in search of food, particularly when wildfires leave a large number of dead trees that are ideal for them.

They are among the few woodpeckers having three toes instead of the majority of species that do have four. They look like the American Three-toed Woodpeckers but lack the white patch over their backs.

Black-backed Woodpeckers build a fresh nest cavity for each nesting session, which is beneficial to other birds that depend on pre-existing nest cavities, and hatch 3 to 4 white eggs.

Because they consume largely beetle larvae within burnt woods, Black-backed Woodpeckers are seldom spotted at household bird feeders.

7. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpeckers may be seen year-round in Ontario; however, they are mostly encountered in the province’s south. They reported 8% of summer and winter checklists.


Because they possess red crowns, these Woodpeckers are sometimes confused with Red-headed Woodpeckers; however, they are relatively smaller.

Males possess vivid red feathers from their beaks towards the back of their necks, but females just have red on the back of their necks.

They have a red abdomen that is hard to observe, whereas they have a white and black design on their backs.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers can be encountered in the eastern US States and rarely migrate.

Surprisingly, these woodpeckers have been identified as among the most dominating birds on garden feeders. They seldom give up on any other bird.

I can confirm this since I often observe them battling off many starlings at once by violently attempting to stab these invading birds using their beaks!


Red-bellied Woodpeckers consume insects, spiders, grass seeds, fruit, and nuts. They might also feed on hatchlings sometimes. They make their nests on dead trees and might even use the same one each year. On a bed of wood pellets, they hatch four to five white eggs.

Learning the woodpecker’s cries is another fantastic technique to locate it! They’re fairly widespread in woods, forested areas, and parks. Pay attention to a continuous “churr-churr-churr.”

Red-bellied Woodpeckers might visit your yard in search of suet and black oil sunflower seeds. They may also be present at hummingbird feeders, where they feast on the fruit. Plant natural berry plants like hawthorn or mountain ash as well.

8. Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-Headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpeckers are uncommon across Ontario; however, they may be found along the province’s southern border.

These woodpeckers can be easy to differentiate because of their redheads and white and black clear patterns. Red-headed Woodpeckers possess medium-sized spiky bills. They possess short tails and black upper back, whitish underparts, and huge whitish wing stripes.

These birds are frequently referred to as “flying checkerboards” for their striking patterning.


Red-headed Woodpeckers are abundant in the central and eastern US, along with southern Canada. Those living in the range’s eastern and northern regions may move farther east or south based on the yields of an acorn.


They will actively protect their location, including killing or stealing other birds’ or ducks’ eggs. Red-headed Woodpeckers, like many other woodpeckers, will grab bugs during flying and also in cracks.

Only 70% of their diet comprises invertebrates, including midges, beetles, grasshoppers, and honeybees. The remainder of their diet has come from plant products, including berries, seeds, and nuts. Red-headed Woodpeckers might be taken eggs or nestlings from other bird species and have mice occasionally.

These woodpeckers produce a loud cry and hatch whitish four to five eggs in tree cavities, frequently revisiting the place. Sadly, habitat degradation has resulted in a 70% population decrease of Red-headed Woodpeckers from 1966 to 2014.

The primary cause is habitat loss as a result of the removal of gigantic beech trees, which supply beechnuts, one of their preferred diets. Just about every American Chestnut tree across the nation was devastated at the same time owing to a fungal disease known as chestnut blight.

Red-headed Woodpeckers are the sole woodpecker breed that can store things. They will conceal nuts, seeds, or insects behind bark, between fence posts, or even tucked between roof tiles. They might even store living bugs by stuffing them into a hole so tightly that they can’t escape!

They may be encountered on forest plantations, pine savannas, farms, and wetlands. They occasionally visit lawn bird feeders.

9. Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpeckers are prevalent across Ontario and may be observed at any time of year. They occur on 5% of summer and 4% of winter checklists.

The Pileated Woodpecker is distinctive for its flaming-red pyramidal crown and appears to be the biggest woodpecker in the entirety of North America.

It is one of the biggest woodpeckers, with nearly crow-like proportions. During flying, one can see that it is mostly black with a white stripe and the white underside of the wings.

Examine their heads for a bright red rectangle directly in front of them. Males get a red stripe over their face, while females have quite a black stripe.


Pileated Woodpeckers are widespread among vast, mature woods with a significant number of dead and broken trees throughout Ontario. They feed on decaying wood, which is infested with ants, termites, and wood-boring beetles. They will, however, augment their diet using fruits and nuts.

They produce a whinnying, strident, deep cry.

A Pileated Woodpecker may also be identified through its drumming, which comprises ten – Thirty beats produced in less than one second. Drumming is performed by both sexes throughout the year to protect or maintain territory, find a mate, or scare off predators.

Pileated Woodpeckers utilize dead trees as breeding grounds, and they normally build a new one every year; therefore, the previous nest location is frequently utilized by other bird species. They typically deposit 3 to 5 white eggs.

Pileated Woodpeckers visit residential bird feeders in search of suet. In addition to hulled sunflower seeds, mealworms, peanuts, suet, and black oil sunflower seeds they consume. In order to entice a nesting partner, consider erecting a nesting box.

10. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers may be seen throughout Ontario from April to October during the mating season, after which they travel south for the winter. They figure on 7% of summer shopping lists.


The rear of yellow-bellied sapsuckers is black and white, with a huge white shoulder spot. Check for the red crown and the black and white striped cheeks. The majority of individuals get a yellowish-white abdomen, as the name indicates.

Males and females can only be distinguished by the color of their throats. Males have such a redneck, but females do have a white neck!

After reproducing in the summer, they migrate from Canada as well as the northeastern United States for the winter season in the southern US and Mexico.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers bore cavities in trees and extracted sap using their brush-tipped tongues. Check for clean rows of openings in horizontal lines with young paper birch, red or sugar maple, yellow birch, and hickory trees.

This migrating woodpecker may be discovered in young deciduous woods across Ontario. They need ecosystems with a lot of growing trees, which have been ideal for building fruitful sap wells.

While Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are known to be piercing into over 1,000 distinct tree species, maples and birches appear to be their favorites.

To keep the sap oozing, the openings must be kept clean. They get a loud meowing loudly cry, nest within tree cavities, and hatch five to six white eggs.

Check out this article on Types of Woodpeckers in Kentucky.


Woodpeckers are beneficial to the ecology because they assist in maintaining it. In addition, some individuals believe that seeing a woodpecker brings good fortune and success.

Woodpeckers consume a range of invertebrates, such as those that may harm wood, among other things. Certain creatures take advantage of old woodpecker nest chambers as well. A woodpecker-specific feeder, like suet cages, may be used to entice woodpeckers to the garden.

To maintain the birds healthier, avoid using pesticides and insecticides. Plant trees that yield nuts and berries; for example, acorns from oak trees are indeed a favorite food of woodpeckers.

And, as far as they do not represent a safety danger, they prevent destroying dead trees since they offer nesting and feeding areas for woodpeckers.


What is Ontario's biggest woodpecker?

The pileated woodpecker is indeed a huge and visually appealing woodland bird. Male and female pileated woodpeckers exhibit minimal color differences within sexes, unlike numerous other species.

What does seeing a pileated woodpecker imply?

Native American legends hold that woodpeckers represent the journey into astral planes and are a symbol of communicators across the world. Your thoughts may include a Pileated Woodpecker, which could signify enhanced fertility.

Last Updated on March 22, 2023 by Lily Aldrin

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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