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Disclaimer

Woodpeckers

This is an information page for those who have an interest in or want to identify a certain species of woodpecker.  The fact that these birds are listed on a pest control site does not mean that they are always considered as pests.  Rarely are woodpeckers considered as pest birds.  Bird control for woodpeckers usually involves methods that will discourage them from pecking or nesting in a manner that people do not like.
Use this page for general woodpecker information and species description, habitat, food sources and nesting habits of the various woodpecker varieties.  If you have problems with a destructive woodpecker that cannot be ignored, go to woodpecker control information page.

General Information

There are several varieties of woodpeckers all over North America ranging in size from 6.5 to 19 inches long. Each species has different identifying marks, however all woodpeckers have short legs, sharp-clawed toes and stiff nails. Most feed on insects found in trees (such as beetles or Hemlock Borer larvae) and on the ground, vegetable matter, berries and tree sap. Why do woodpeckers peck on wood you might ask? Mainly to attract their mates, to establish or defend their territories, to search for insects, and sometimes just to make a loud sound. Woodpeckers peck on everything from trees, wooden shingles, cedar siding, metal, plastic materials and even light posts. 

Below are lists of the variety of woodpeckers along with their identifying marks, their habitat, eating habits, reproduction, and even some facts you’ll find cool and interesting such as "What kind of bird is Woody the Woodpecker?" and the types of woodpeckers that store their food in wood or bark.

Woodpecker Varieties 

Red Headed Woodpecker   Pileated Woodpecker   Red-Bellied Woodpecker  Red Cocked Woodpecker 

Northern FlickersNorthern Flicker Woodpecker  Eastern Flicker Woodpecker  Western Flicker 

Sapsucker WoodpeckersRed Naped Sapsucker  Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 

Downy and Hairy WoodpeckersDowny Woodpecker   Hairy Woodpecker   Lewis’s Woodpecker 

Acorn Woodpecker   Black Backed Three Toed Woodpecker   Gila Woodpecker   

Golden Fronted Woodpecker   Ladder Backed Woodpecker   Nuttall’s Woodpecker  

Types of woodpeckers that store their food in wood or bark:

                                                                                                
Red Headed Woodpecker

Ever wonder what type of woodpecker Woody Woodpecker was? From his identifying marks, Woody was a Red Headed Woodpecker. These woodpeckers range in size from 7-9 inches and are identified by their white chest, red head, bluish gray bill and white markings in their wings. In the summer, Red Headed Woodpeckers are found east of the Rocky Mountains and west of New England, in the winter they are found mainly in southwest Texas. Red Headed Woodpeckers eat beech and oak bark, seeds, nuts, berries, fruit, insects, bird eggs and mice. They produce 5-7 eggs in nests found in dead trees or dead branches. These birds breed in woodlands, river bottoms, orchards, and swamps and are attracted to burnt or recent clearings. 
Cool facts about the Red Headed Woodpecker: They are very territorial often attacking other birds and even going to great lengths to remove other birds eggs from nests and they sometimes puncture duck eggs. Red Headed Woodpeckers are one of four types of woodpeckers to store their food in wood or bark. They hide insects such as grasshoppers in cracks of wood and under roof shingles.

Pileated Woodpecker

The largest variety of woodpecker is the Pileated Woodpecker ranging from 16-19 inches long. Male adults are identified by a red Mohawk; both male and female have a red Mohawk (crest) on the top of their heads, but the male is distinguished by a red cheek pad.  The female does not have red coloring in this area. The Pileated woodpecker can also be identified by their black body, black and white stripes on the facial area, a white strip from their bill to the their neck and beady yellow eyes. Pileated woodpeckers make their habitat in coniferous forests with large trees found in southern Canada, the Midwestern and eastern parts of the United States, the pacific coast and the northern Rockies. They eat carpenter ants, wood boring beetle larvae, fruit and nuts. Pileated woodpeckers produce 4-6 eggs in nests found in dead tree with a cavity lined with wood chips. An interesting fact about these woodpeckers is that they dig rectangular holes in trees so deep that it might cause small trees to break in half. Male and female Pileated woodpeckers stay together as a pair in their territory all year long.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker is the most common woodpecker found in the southeast. These 9-inch long woodpeckers are identified by red marks on their head that makes it look like they are wearing a hood. Their feathers are black and white striped and they have a black bill and a gray face. Red Bellied Woodpeckers will lay 2-6 eggs in dry or damp forests and are found in suburban areas of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, and southward to the Gulf Coast and Eastern Texas. They eat seeds, fruits, sap, lizards, tree frogs, small fish, birds and eggs. The Red Bellied Woodpecker competes for nesting holes and even drags out Red Cocked Woodpeckers from their nests and kills them. These woodpeckers have a longer bill and longer wider tongue tip in order to dig deeper in wood for food.

Red Cocked Woodpecker

The Red Cocked Woodpecker (red-cockaded woodpecker) was put on the Endangered Species list back in 1973. This species of woodpecker in 7 ½ inches long and can be identified by its black and white striped back, white face and chest and black spotted sides and belly. The male adult has a red streak behind its eye that is visible only when the bird is agitated. The Red Cocked Woodpecker is found across the southern Atlantic and Gulf Coast states and prefers longleaf pines, the wood of which is used for lumber thus limiting the birds existence. This woodpecker circles the pine tree as it climbs, eating any insects and insect eggs they find underneath the bark. During the summers the Red Cocked Woodpecker feeds on worms found in corn, on nuts and berries. Nests with 2-5 eggs are laid in pine tree cavities that are lined with dried wood chips usually found 12-70 feet off the ground. The Red Cocked Woodpecker is non-migratory and usually stays with a large group that contains one breeding pair and a number of adult males. These adult males assist the breeding pair in feeding young birds, incubating eggs, defending the colony, an constructing new cavities. Taking several years to dig, the Red Cocked Woodpecker tunnels through the bark until it reaches the dead heartwood of the pine where it creates a gourd shaped room that will be its home. Young males tend to stay with the group and wait for an adult bird to die rather that leave the nest and create a new home. Currently there are only four Red Cocked Woodpecker populations that exist in the world and all are located in the Southeastern United States: Apalachicola National Forest in Northwest Florida, The Francis Marion National Forest in South Carolina, the Kisatchie National forest in Louisiana, and Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

Northern Flickers 

There are three types of the Northern Flicker Woodpecker:  Northern Flicker, Eastern Flicker and the Western Flicker Woodpeckers, all range 11-12 inches in length.
The Northern Flicker is identified by it black and gray back, white markings under its tail feathers, black tail and black crescent markings on its breast. 
The Eastern Flicker has bright yellow markings under its wings and tail feathers, a tan throat and face, and red crescent markings at the nape of its neck. Male adults are distinguished by the black mustache markings on its face. 
The Western Flicker male adults are recognized by its red mustache on its face, red markings under its wings and tail feathers and a gray face and throat. Northern Flicker Woodpeckers are attracted to open woodlands preferring swamps, recently flooded areas, beaver ponds and cities and suburbs all across America. Male Northern Flickers play the major roll in building homes. Northern Flicker Woodpeckers eat grasshoppers, crickets, termites, wasps, beetles and their larvae, caterpillars, spiders, ants, fruit seeds including cherries, dogwood berries, Virginia creepers, poison ivy, sumac, hackberry and black gum, sunflower seeds and nuts. During the winter months, they intake fruit more than anything else. Northern Flicker Woodpeckers lay 3-12 eggs in unlined cavities in dead trees. An interesting fact of a Northern Flicker Woodpecker is that it prefers to find food on the ground and uses its large barbed tongue to lap up ants

Sapsucker Woodpeckers

Red Naped Sapsucker 
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

The Red Naped Sapsucker Woodpecker and the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Woodpecker are very similar creatures. Both are about 7 to 8 inches long and can be identified by a white stripe with black border on its side, forehead and crown, black and white striped face, black upper chest, white rump, and black wings with white spots. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker does not have a red spot on the back of its head, while the Red Naped Sapsucker does. Both can be found in mixed forests full of willows and aspen trees. They spend their winters in orchards and pine oak woodlands, the Rocky Mountains, Central British Columbia and Central New Mexico. They eat sap, fruit and arthropods. 

Sapsucker Woodpeckers do not suck sap as their name implies, but rather licks the sap using small hair like projections on the tip of the tongue. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker makes two holes to reach sap, a round one to dig deep in the tree and a rectangle shaped hole to help the sap to flow. Sapsucker Woodpeckers are the only woodpeckers that are completely migratory. They also use man made metal materials to tap on such as a street sign and will return day after day to a favorite sign. 

Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers

Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are similar in their habitats, eating habits and reproduction. Both are black and white woodpeckers, but the downy woodpeckers can be identified by it short dainty beak, black wings with white stripes, and the red patch on the back of the head of adult males. Hairy woodpeckers are about the size of a robin 9 to 13 inches with a long beak and a comma shaped black mark form shoulder to breast. Male adults also have a red patch on the back of their head. Downy and Hairy woodpeckers are found from Canada throughout the United States to Mexico. Both woodpeckers eat sunflower seeds, nuts, fruit, and insects such as ants, grasshoppers, wood boring beetles, spiders, crickets and flies, though Hairy Woodpeckers prefer caterpillars and moths. Four to Five eggs are produced in bare hole cavities in trees. Both the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are the only woodpeckers with vertical white stripes on its back.

Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpeckers get their name by the large numbers of acorns that they hoard during the summer and winter months. About 9 inches long, Acorn woodpeckers can be identified by is white feathers on it breast, yellow nose, black marks around the beak, eye and back of neck and the red spot on the top of its head. They are attracted to oak woods, pine-oak woodlands, and parks where they drill holes in trees to store acorns. Acorn Woodpeckers usually stay within their colony of about 2-15 birds. During the summer months they eat insects, fruit, sap, and corn that they horn in utility polls and wooden structures. Reproduction of this breed of woodpeckers depends on the size of acorn crops. Acorn woodpeckers pack the acorns they find so tightly in trees that squirrels cannot pry them out. They will also store acorns in such places as fence posts, utility poles, buildings and even car radiators. 

Black Backed Three Toed Woodpecker

As the name implies, the Black Backed Three Toed Woodpecker has a solid black back, black and white striped breast, black head, yellow crown, white stripe behind eye, white throat and belly and black tail. They can be found from North America to Northern Alaska, Canada, and Northern Saskatchewan to north Central Newfoundland. The Black Backed Three Toed Woodpecker prefers burnt woodlands and mixed forests. They eat on larvae of tree dwelling insects, spiders and berries. Three to six eggs are produced in the nest of bark chips in trees about five to seven feet above ground. Unlike other woodpeckers, the Black Backed Three Toed Woodpecker has only two toes in front and one behind, missing the fourth hind toe found on other woodpeckers.

Gila Woodpeckers

Gila Woodpeckers, pronounced (hee-la), are around 8 inches tall and are identified by their tan head, throat, breast, belly, black and white stripes on their back feathers, black wings with white spots and white under their tail. Adult males have a red cap on top of their head.
Common year round in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico, the Gila Woodpecker prefers deserts with lots of cacti and mesquite trees. They eat insects, fruit, nuts, lizards and eggs of smaller birds. 
Adult Gila Woodpeckers work together to build a nest in the cavity of the Saguaro Cactus. When creating the nest, the male picks at the trunk of the cactus while the female picks at the diseased areas. Once the nest is built, they will wait several months for the cactus to dry out before occupying it. Once in the nest, the female Gila woodpecker will produce 3-5 eggs, usually twice a year.
Gila woodpeckers often tap loudly in metal objects as a territorial call. They have been known to tap on objects as much a 10 times a minute. Because of so much hammering, their brains are protected between their bill and their skull by a spongy elastic material.

Golden Fronted Woodpecker

Golden Fronted Woodpeckers are mainly identified by their gold marking above their beak. Standing 7 inches tall, the adult male has a red cap on its head while the adult female has a black cap. Both have long tongues that help them to gather insects under the tree bark.
Found in Texas and Oklahoma, the Golden Fronted Woodpecker makes its home in deserts, cottonwood groves and bushy areas along streams, wooded canyons and parks. They find food by scavenging insects and insect larvae on the surface of trees and on the ground instead of drilling holes like other woodpeckers. They eat fruit, cactus, insects, acorns, pecans and corn.
Female adult Golden Fronted Woodpeckers build nests in abandoned cavities of decaying trees, telephone poles and fence posts where they produce 4-5 eggs. Young offspring stay four weeks with mother after hatching then leave the nest to gather their own food.

Ladder Backed Woodpecker 

Ladder Backed Woodpeckers are more common in Texas than in any other state in the US. They make their habitat in wooded canyons, cottonwood groves, pine oak woodlands and desert grasslands.
Standing 7 seven inches tall, the Ladder Backed Woodpecker is a small black and white woodpecker with a mostly white head. It has black spots on its breast, a white throat, breast and belly, black wings with white spots and black tail feathers. Adult males have a red crown and hind neck and black forehead while the adult female has a black forehead, crown and cap.
Feasting on wood boring beetle larvae, caterpillars, ants and the fruit of cacti, the Ladder Backed Woodpecker moves up and down trees by walking, hopping and climbing.
Adult Ladder Backed Woodpeckers breed from January to March and produce 4-6 eggs from April to May. They nest in Joshua trees, willow trees, walnut trees, oak trees, pine trees and mesquite trees. Male and female Ladder Backed Woodpeckers roost in separate cavities.
These trusting woodpeckers frequently visit ranches, yards, rural areas and parks. They are non-migratory and are closely related to the Nuttall's Woodpecker of California.

Nuttall’s Woodpecker

The Nuttall’s Woodpecker is very similar in appearance to the Ladder Backed woodpecker. Identified by their black head, white throat and belly, black spots on their breast and black wings and rump, the adult female has a black forehead, crown and cap while the adult male has a red crown and black forehead. The only difference between them and the Ladder Backed woodpecker is that the Nuttall’s Woodpecker’s red crown extends more toward its neck than the Ladder Backed. 
Located west of the southern Cascade Mountains from south Oregon to Northern Baja California, the Nuttall’s Woodpecker is found in oak trees and along streams. They nest in willows, cottonwood, sycamore and oak trees usually producing 3-6 eggs between March and June. The male Nuttall’s Woodpecker shares sitting responsibilities with the female and usually stay around the nest at night. Once born, the young leave the nest after four weeks.
The Nuttall’s Woodpecker loves acorns and insects, usually feasting on beetles, caterpillars, ants and bugs. Male adults usually scour tree trunks and large branches while the female sticks to the smaller branches. Digging holes and moving diagonally up and down a tree, the Nuttall’s Woodpecker will hang upside down under limbs looking for insects under the bark. Adults will defend their territory against other birds and Downy Woodpeckers.

Lewis’s Woodpecker

Lewis’s Woodpeckers are different from any other species of woodpecker because of their solid wing color and distinct crow like flaps when flying. They stand 9 inches tall and are identified by their dark bronze-green head, back, upper wings, rump and upper tail. They have a gray collar and upper breast, red face and pink belly.
Common in southern British Columbia south to central California, northern Arizona and northern New Mexico, Lewis’s Woodpeckers reside in pine oak woodlands, oak groves and grasslands where they nest and produce 6-8 eggs in the cavity of dead stump or tree limbs.
Acorns make up 1/3 of this woodpecker’s diet. The Lewis’s Woodpecker stores acorns in the cracks of trees to save for later while eating ants, crickets, grasshoppers, juniper berries, while berries, pine nuts, cherries apricots, sunflower seeds, nuts, sugar water and fruit. They have excellent vision and are great fly catchers, catching insects that are 100 feet away.

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