7 Types of Woodpeckers in Kentucky (KY)

Woodpeckers are among the more intriguing birds you may encounter around your backyard, and didn’t you know that Kentucky has seven different species?

If you’ve got more than one woodpecker trying to visit you, there’s a significant possibility you’re hosting many different kinds!

Although the following list covers the majority of the typical woodpeckers found within Kentucky, you may come into a migrating species of woodpecker that’s not native to Kentucky. Find yourself extremely fortunate if you come across a stray variety!

Kentucky has a moderate midland climate with abundant coastal breezes, making it a great nesting habitat for birds, especially woodpeckers, which flourish in these sorts of conditions.

The most common woodpeckers throughout Kentucky are listed below.

The Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker are the seven woodpeckers known throughout Kentucky.

Downy WoodpeckerDowny Woodpecker
Hairy WoodpeckerHairy Woodpecker
Northern FlickerNorthern Flicker
Pileated WoodpeckerPileated Woodpecker
Red-bellied WoodpeckerRed-bellied Woodpecker
Red-headed WoodpeckerRed-headed Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied SapsuckerYellow-bellied Sapsucker

Types of Woodpeckers in Kentucky (KY)

1. Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Scientific Name Dryobates pubescens
Weight 0.6 to 1.2 ounces
Length 5.4 to 7.1 inches
Wingspan 10 to 12 inches


The charming downy woodpecker is a Picidae that may be spotted across the middle United States towards the northern side. In reality, they are typically among the smallest native woodpeckers throughout the state.

They like milder climates in general; however, they are found to wander. They make single, sharp screams and love to consume from backyard feeders.

If you come across any woodpeckers in your garden, they are most probably will be Downy Woodpeckers. They are merely a little bigger than a standard backyard sparrow.

How to Identify?

The downy woodpecker is among those little and noisy birds that are predominantly white and black, having certain spots, and males possess red crests. 

They possess different spots and patterns on their wings and plumage, so no two will ever appear the very same!

Map of Range and Migration

The downy woodpecker could be around throughout the United States, covering states as diverse as Florida and Alaska!

If the season is mild enough – and not too scorching – there’s a good chance you may encounter beautiful specie in your garden. There are many, approximately Thirteen million of them spread over the continent.

During the winter season, they congregate with some other species, including nuthatches and chickadees, for protection and food.

They are frequently seen around feeders and are readily lured by black sunflower seed, suet, mixed seed, or peanuts.

2. Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Scientific Name Dryobates villosus
Weight 1.6 to 3.6 ounces
Length 7 to 10 inches
Wingspan 13 to 17 inches


If you observe a woodpecker in your backyard across the United States, it is almost definitely a hairy species! The Dryobates villosus seems to be rather abundant, yet it is also somewhat shy and reclusive.

They make fairly basic calls, but they will drill and bang on almost anything. As a result, they are adept opportunists, taking sap ooze from crevices occupied by several other birds!

The hairy woodpecker has traditionally been noted for its forceful beak – this could look tiny, but it digs skillfully!

How to Identify?

The hairy woodpecker has a hairy appearance by nature, yet it is also distinguished by its huge, sharp bill and stunning white and black coloring.

Several species, however, may be brownish in hue. They have predominantly speckled wings and white breasts. 

Map of Range and Migration

Where do I begin? This Picidae is not exceptionally sensitive to temperature, but it is typically generally seen around coniferous trees.

There are about eight million of all these species here on the continent, and their population is rising; there aren’t any states in which they are most abundant.

3. Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Scientific Name Colaptes auratus
Weight 3 to 6 ounces
Length 11 to 15 inches
Wingspan 17 to 22 inches


This Picidae species is known by various identities, including the Yellow-shafted and the Red-shafted Flicker. It’s a relatively common bird and is among the biggest woodpeckers found throughout the United States.

However, unlike many other woodpeckers, they prefer to feast on soil invertebrates, notably ants! This Flicker usually hops around to devour; it could also sit on a branch from time to time for a delicious bite or two.

How to Identify?

The Northern Flicker’s plumage hue differs (hence the several nicknames), but these birds may be distinguished through their flecked tails and wings.

They typically have black markings around their crests and faces, and their enormous size sets them distinct from all other Picidae.

Map of Range and Migration

Northern Flickers are usually found mostly in the eastern part, however, they can occasionally be found inside the northwestern and occasionally even along the west coast – particularly the yellow-shafted form!

These species’ flickers are fairly prevalent throughout the United States, with approximately 10 million species thought to dwell in North America right now.

4. Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Scientific Name Dryocopus pileatus
Weight 9 to 15 ounces
Length 15 to 18 inches
Wingspan 25 to 31 inches


This big and noisy woodpecker is very simple to see, especially because its courting sounds are so unique! Unfortunately, this robust Picidae is occasionally confused for an ancient woodpecker, the ivory-billed woodpecker, but it hasn’t been observed in the United States in far too many years.

The pileated woodpecker, which is nearly crow-sized, feeds on insects and minibeasts hidden deep within rotting trees. This species’ hole-making can assist other animals in finding refuge, which is a pleasant surprise.

How to Identify?

The pileated woodpecker does have a striking red crest, monochrome bodies, and long, sharp beaks, in addition to their loud calls and wood tapping.

The male of the genus is easily distinguished by a facial feature resembling a mustache.

Map of Range and Migration

The pileated woodpecker isn’t too picky regarding where it wants to reside. Although it is mostly found in the eastern states, however, it may be found even farther north as Nova Scotia! It’s also not uncommon to see this widespread Picidae if you live in California.

5. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Scientific Name Melanerpes carolinus
Weight 2 to 3 ounces
Length 9.1 to 10.6 inches
Wingspan 15 to 19 inches


The red-bellied woodpecker, which is becoming more prevalent, enjoys flocking around garden feeders and makes a cry that you may know.

They only beat when breeding or seduction, and if you have ever attempted to tell these species to differ in terms of their gender, you’ll know it’s extremely difficult.

This is a medium-sized bird that does not cause too much harm to trees; it is among the kinder woodpeckers found in the wilderness of the United States.

They like pecking through hardwoods and often congregate in woodlands when not at the feeder.

How to Identify?

The red-bellied woodpecker does have a crimson belly. However, it is most known for its red-tinged head and bar-coated plumage and also for its brown front and face. Likewise, it isn’t easy to distinguish between men and females.

Map of Range and Migration

These woodpeckers are commonly seen in the eastern and southern states, from Texas through Florida. They do not even migrate very much, especially when they take nesting sites from some of the other birds!

6. Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-Headed Woodpecker

Scientific Name Melanerpes carolinus
Weight 2.1 to 3.1 ounces
Length 9.3 to 10.6 inches
Wingspan 15 to 18 inches


This enormous, brightly colored bird is indeed an attraction to behold for many, and although you may not get its call very often, its rattling and pounding on trees are probably to be the familiar sound throughout its home regions.

It does not, however, peck through trees for sustenance; instead, it captures winged creatures as they pass by.

Because of food shortages, the population of this woodpecker has unfortunately declined throughout the years. It gladly consumes nuts and acorns whenever it can’t even catch an insect or two.

How to Identify?

They feature vivid red crowns and heads, white body plumage, and monochromatic wings and tails, as their names imply. You won’t be able to perceive their cries very well.

Map of Range and Migration

These acorn-foraging birds can be found in the east across the central United States and as far north as Canada. They prefer the hotter areas, though, and therefore will visit New Mexico and Florida.

7. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Scientific Name Sphyrapicus varius
Weight 1.6 to 2.1 ounces
Length 7.6 to 8.4 inches
Wingspan 13.4 to 16.2 inches


This woodpecker seems to be a type of bird that would joyfully make a hole in order to sip delectable sap from the inside, which is particularly appealing to other birds.

In regards to habit and appearance, these birds are identical to certain other sapsuckers. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are unusual drillers; you’ll probably know their sequential pounding if they come across wood or metal in your backyard.

These species are noted for chipping and building nests above 6,000 feet in elevation.

How to Identify?

A yellow-bellied sapsucker may usually be identified by its colorful belly, but it also has a crimson neck and crest, as well as magnificent white and black bars and dots along its body, tail, and wings.

Map of Range and Migration

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has been the world’s greatest migrating bird, nesting in eastern Arkansas as well as the northern temperate forests and taking up residence around the Caribbean and Panama during winter.

This bird, like some other native US sapsuckers, is frequently located near forests; however, it will travel from the northern plains and lower west southeast to the west of the Appalachian Mountains.

Check out this article on Types of Woodpeckers in Indiana.


Kentucky has a big woodpecker population. Year-round occupants include hairy and downy species. They are frequently seen near garden feeders, particularly ones that serve suet.

Northern flickers are therefore prevalent, although they do not even frequently visit backyards.

Although red-bellied woodpeckers are common throughout Kentucky, you won’t see them very frequently during the summertime.

Finally, the pileated and red-headed species are both found throughout Kentucky’s remote, solitary woodlands.

If you see an ivory-billed or red-cockaded woodpecker, take a video and send it to us. These subspecies are believed to have gone extinct. But then again, who knows, perhaps you’ll come across them again!


What is the appearance of a Kentucky woodpecker?

Aside from their size, these species are predominantly black, having white stripes on their forehead and throat.

Check for a bright red circle on the tops of their heads. Males get a red stripe across their face, whereas females have such a black stripe.

How can i identify a woodpecker?

Small woodpecker having either a black-and-white striped back. The back bar doesn’t really extend all the way across the back, producing a solid black spot underneath the throat. The males get a red patch on the back of their heads.

How can you know whether you've got a hairy or a downy woodpecker?

The hairy woodpecker is noticeably bigger than the downy woodpecker, measuring around 9 inches from the apex of its beak towards the end of its tail.

(In comparison, the downy woodpecker is around six and a half inches in length.) The difference in length is fairly little, apart from when they’re placed side by side, which really doesn’t appear very frequently.

What does seeing a pileated woodpecker mean?

Woodpeckers, according to Native American traditions, signify the voyage into astral dimensions and are a sign of messengers and prophets across worlds.

A Pileated Woodpecker appearing in your dreams might indicate increased fertility or production.

What is the appearance of a pileated woodpecker?

Pileated Woodpeckers appear primarily black, having white stripes on their faces and necks and a bright red crown. Males get a red line along the center of their cheek.

During flying, the bird has large white underwings and little white crescents somewhere at the bases of the primaries, mostly on the top part.

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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