8 Different Species of Woodpeckers in Tennessee (TN)

Tennessee has been geographically distinctive in that it is situated in the heart of the eastern part of the United States.

Its length greatly outweighs its breadth, resulting in a wide range of heights, climate patterns, and land morphology. In the western part of Tennessee, numerous streams, reservoirs, and flood areas exist, with a mountain range to the eastern side and lowlands in between.

Forests encompass over half of this region, providing habitat for a diverse range of animals. Tennessee’s Watchable Wildlife includes roughly 100 different bird species that live in the state’s beautiful natural areas.

Throughout Tennessee, there are not that many woodpeckers. Seven, though, can still be found.

In this article, eight species of woodpeckers found around Tennessee will be discussed.

Pileated WoodpeckerPileated Woodpecker
Yellow-Bellied SapsuckerYellow-Bellied Sapsucker
Red-Headed WoodpeckerRed-Headed Woodpecker
Downy WoodpeckerDowny Woodpecker
Northern FlickerNorthern Flicker
Hairy WoodpeckerHairy Woodpecker
Red-Cockaded WoodpeckerRed-Cockaded Woodpecker
Red-Bellied WoodpeckerRed-Bellied Woodpecker

Different Species of Woodpeckers in Tennessee

1. Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

The first bird on this list is the biggest species of woodpecker located throughout North America, excluding the critically endangered Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

The Pileated Woodpecker is a large, brave, and elegant bird with stunning black and white feathers and a pointy crown on top of its head. When seated on a stem, they seem predominantly black, having white stripes along the edges of their cheeks.

The dazzling whitish undersides of the wings are plainly seen when in flight. To complement their huge, crow-like physique, these woodpeckers have lengthy necks, beaks, and wingspan.

Pileated Woodpeckers may be seen in Tennessee all year. Their loud pounding when excavating dead wood is frequently heard before they are sighted.

Habitat & Food

Their foraging activity creates distinctive, rectangular-shaped perforations through wood, which provides a hint of their presence. They can be found in mixed conifer as well as hardwood woods, where there is an abundance of decaying wood or collapsed trees.

Pileated Woodpeckers primarily consume carpenter ants off decaying woods and collapsed trunks, but these woodpeckers also consume beetle larvae, fleas, and various insects, and also fruit and nuts, including blackberry, sumac berry, dogwood, and elderberries.

They emit a harsh, whinnying sound as well as a deep, booming thumping. They typically deposit 3 to 5 white eggs.

2. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Consider again if you depend on a brilliant yellow underbelly to recognize the yellow-bellied sapsucker. These little birds possess black and white bodies, red crowns, and crimson necks in males. Their stomachs aren’t bright yellow; rather, they have a tinge of shade.

The yellow-bellied sapsucker is predominantly found in North America’s northeastern area, which includes Canada as well as the eastern United States.

Throughout the non-breeding period, these woodpeckers remain fairly prevalent in Tennessee. These woodpeckers typically rely on tree sap. It’s hardly unexpected that they like to reside in large fir trees at high elevations.

They may even take up home in shorter trees if they locate a suitable hollow. This bird isn’t renowned for visiting neighborhood bird feeders, but if you load one using suet and keep your fingers crossed, you could attract one.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers feature a little, pale yellowish marking on their bellies and lower parts. Males and females both feature red foreheads, but exclusively males have crimson throats.

The remainder of their feathers is black and white, like that of similar woodpeckers.


They invest the mating season in the northern areas, particularly New England and much of Canada, although they may be spotted throughout Tennessee during the wintertime. Throughout the wintertime, they can be encountered in open forests, gardens, and groves.

3. Red-Headed Woodpecker

Red-Headed Woodpecker

With its vivid red skull, whitish underbelly, and black rear, the red-headed woodpecker appears difficult to overlook. Its wings also have a large white patch.

This woodpecker that you can find in Tennessee is a moderate-sized bird, about the size of a robin or a crow. Red-headed woodpeckers possess a ravenous hunger for insects and batter the trees in search of a tasty meal.

Food & Habitat

These woodpeckers may also catch a bug in mid-air or pursue it across the floor. If there are no bugs nearby, they will happily consume fruits and seeds.

The raspy, harsh sounds of this woodpecker species alert you to its presence. This bird can be found anywhere there’s woodland or growing timber around wetlands.

The red-headed woodpecker lives in Tennessee throughout the year and is most commonly seen in the state’s western part, particularly during the winter. If you have suet feeders throughout the garden, this bird may pay you a visit; just make sure they’re full.

These woodpeckers may strongly protect their territory, including stealing or damaging other birds’ as well as ducks’ eggs. Red-headed Woodpeckers, the same as other woodpeckers, can grab bugs during flying as well as in cracks.

Only around one-third of their food consists of bugs, including beetles, moths, bees, and crickets. The remaining two-thirds are vegetative materials, including grains, nuts, and berries.

Red-headed Woodpeckers may also steal nestlings and eggs from different birds and, on occasion, rodents. Red-headed Woodpeckers have a harsh cry and deposit 4 to 5 white eggs inside tree cavities, often revisiting a site.

Sadly, habitat degradation has resulted in a 70 percent population decrease of Red-headed Woodpeckers from 1967 through 2015.

4. Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

The small downy woodpecker is among the most widespread woodpecker birds in North America, living all year in a range of habitats ranging from vineyards to suburban gardens.

These little woodpeckers are barely bigger compared to a sparrow and cannot grow bigger than a robin. The downy woodpecker is distinguished by its black and white coloring and blackish-spotted tail feathers.

Male and female downy woodpeckers may be distinguished by a red spot on the back sides of their heads, whilst females do not. It may be hard to tell downy woodpeckers apart from hairy woodpeckers, although downy woodpeckers appear smaller and have shorter beaks.

Their tiny size, which falls somewhere between the size of a sparrow and that of a robin, allows them to graze in areas where bigger woodpeckers cannot, such as fragile twigs and long weed stems and grasslands.

When foraging, they are often known to mix in with flocks of tiny songbirds. Downy Woodpeckers feature the identical black and white coloring as most other woodpecker species.

Males possess a reddish patch on the crowns of their skulls, and their tops are mostly black and white spotted. Their stomachs are a bright white, and a prominent white band extends down their rear.

Downy Woodpecker beaks are considerably smaller in comparison to their heads when compared to certain other birds.

5. Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Northern Flickers are among the most visually appealing woodpecker species on our ranking. Northern Flickers, unlike other black & white woodpeckers, are predominantly grayish-brown with many spots and patterns on their stomachs and rear end.

They have huge, spherical heads, extended tails, and bottom-curved bills. When flying, the brilliant white spot on their back is plainly visible.

The coloring of the underparts of their wings varies based on which part of the country they are on. Flickers from the eastern part are yellow, whilst those in the western part are red.

Northern Flickers can easily be located all year in Tennessee, across open regions, forest borders, and many different habitats.

When searching for these woodpeckers, make sure to concentrate your sight on the ground. These woodpeckers prefer to spend their time in the soil instead of on the trunks of trees.

Meanwhile, they hunt for their main food – ants — using their distinctively curved bills.

6. Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

The Hairy Woodpecker appears to be a bigger counterpart of the small Downy Woodpecker. Their feathers would appear practically similar if it weren’t for the differences in size and beak structure.

Both have black and white feathers featuring a lot of checkering around their top portions. On the other hand, Hairy Woodpeckers have lengthier bills and are less prevalent owing to their preference for bigger trees.

As a result, these woodpeckers are less likely to be found in gardens or suburban settings than Downy Woodpeckers. Hairy Woodpeckers are yet another woodpecker that may be seen in Tennessee all year.


They may be seen in mature woodlands featuring tall trees of many types, including deciduous trees, conifers, and a combination of the two.

These woodpeckers may also be found in riverfront groves and wetlands, as well as freshly burnt forests. The majority of their food comprises wood-boring bugs and their eggs, so keep an ear out for their frenetic pounding the next time you go hunting for them.

7. Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

Although this red-cockaded woodpecker has been previously a common migrant into Tennessee because it was listed as an endangered species around the 1970s, finding one is considered to be nearly impossible.

With their primarily black and white coloration, these woodpeckers look very unassuming. The ladder design on their rear ends is shared by numerous similar woodpecker species. However, these birds are distinguished by striking reddish cockades on their cheeks.

Because this red stripe is so little, you’ll have to go up close to notice it. Red-cockaded woodpeckers prefer to reside in flocks where they seek meals and provide for their offspring.

They can be found in national wildlife sanctuaries, wilderness areas, and other regions where their habitats can be preserved.

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are currently endangered owing to habitat degradation caused by the harvesting of ancient longleaf pines, with an 86 percent fall in population since 1966.


In flocks, they hunt in pine trees, eating bugs and caterpillars, including ants, wasps, and centipedes. They will also consume pine nuts, wild berries, grapes, blueberry, and strawberries.

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker builds its nests among pine trees that have been weakened by the fungal decay. They deposit 2 to 5 white eggs and dig sap wells under the nest cavity to prevent predators. In case you live anywhere near pine forests, Red-cockaded Woodpeckers can be drawn to your garden by food, including berries.

8. Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are perhaps the most often observed woodpeckers in Tennessee year-round. In both summer and winter, these woodpeckers appear on approximately 37% of checklists provided by bird observers for the state.

Because they feature red crowns, Red-bellied Woodpeckers are often confused with Red-headed Woodpeckers, although they are considerably smaller.

Female Red-bellied Woodpeckers possess no redhead and just red napes.

These woodpeckers have a faint red belly that is difficult to see, but they possess the classic black and white patterns on their backs.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are located in the eastern United States and are not migratory. Red-bellied Woodpeckers are frequently spotted at bird feeders, particularly if you reside near forested regions.

They have a characteristic booming rolling cry, so you will frequently hear these woodpeckers before you see them.


Red-bellied Woodpeckers feed on bugs, spiders, grass grains, berries, and nuts. They will also consume nestlings on occasion. They build their nests on decaying trees and may utilize the same one season after season. These woodpeckers lay four to five white eggs over a bedding of wooden chips.

They create a loud cry and beat against trees at a rate of around 19 beats each second. Red-bellied Woodpeckers are widespread in eastern forests and woodlands, but they can also be found at bird feeders.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers may visit your yard in search of suet as well as black oil sunflower seedlings. They may also be found in hummingbird feeders, where they feast on berries.


As you can see in our article on woodpeckers in Tennessee, Tennessee is residence to more than just a few birds; it also has a plethora of biodiversity, including eight kinds of woodpeckers.

However, this is simply the tip of the iceberg; there is much more to learn regarding the birds that are migratory across Tennessee. It’s a popular hangout for many of our feathery companions.

We hope that this article on woodpeckers in Tennessee will prove to be useful to you.


What's the biggest woodpecker in Tennessee?

The Pileated Woodpecker represents North America’s biggest woodpecker. Its unique coloration and loud ringing sounds make it a common bird across rural Tennessee.

What attracts woodpeckers to my house?

Drumming is a way of interaction among woodpeckers. Because hard structures, including windows, roof tiles, a house’s roofline, or metal sheeting, provide excellent amplification, they frequently attract these feathery percussionists.

Are woodpeckers good to have around?

Woodpeckers play a vital ecological function in controlling insect pest numbers, and their nest openings are exploited by non-drilling birds as well as mammalian species.

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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