Woodpeckers: Bird Watching Guide, Facts, Identifying & More

When you hear the familiar sound of drilling and drumming, it’s safe to say a woodpecker is in your area. These unique, pretty birds are fun to spot. There’s many different species, so it’s neat to learn all of the identifying traits about them. In this article, we discuss all you need to know about woodpeckers.

Male Red-Bellied Woodpecker

How To Identify Woodpeckers

These sweet flyers can be identified in a few different ways. A woodpecker’s identity can usually be found by looking at special markings, their upright posture, and their clinging to a tree trunk or branch. Identifying a specific species depends on the size, plumage, markings, bill, and wings. They will also have a distinct habitat, type of hole, and sound. These are the top five species in North America of woodpeckers.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

The downy woodpecker is the smallest of its type in North America. It can be found throughout the year in the US and southern Canada. It stands about seven inches long. He is most often found in forests, parks, and urban areas.

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

A hairy woodpecker doesn’t have a bright spot at the back of his head. It has a dash of color along the crown of the head. It’s tough to distinguish the hairy species with the three-toed woodpeckers. A hairy woodpecker has a thicker area of white along the sides with a large number of white spots on the wings.

Red-Headed Woodpecker

Red-Headed Woodpecker

This specifies is very common in the eastern US throughout the year. They are not just red-headed, but also have white and a blue-black coloration. They have white patches on the wings. The bright red along their head is also found along their throat.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The red-bellied woodpecker is one that enjoys coming right into your hard for a treat. This woodpecker doesn’t have a bright red belly, but really just a blushing belly. It can be tough to figure out if it’s even a red-bellied species, but the mane and the belly are both a little red.

Ladder-Backed Woodpecker

Ladder-Backed Woodpecker

The ladder-backed woodpecker hangs out throughout the entire year in the southwestern US and Mexico. The males have a red tint along the crown. The females lack the red tint but are usually black, white, and gray. The underparts of these birds usually have spots. The tail is usually solid black.

 

How To Attract Woodpeckers To Your Yard

Woodpeckers are usually pretty happy nestled on their tree. They chisel the day away, so it can be tough to get them to come to your yard. The easiest way to attract them is to offer them food.

The most common types of trees where woodpeckers like to hang out are spruce, fruit, sweet gums, and pine trees. They love trees with softer wood to make it easier for them to find insects. They’ll drill into a tree with bark lice insects or wood borers to find their next meal. They also like bushes that produce fruits or berries. These include apples, dogwood, tupelo, mulberry, and elderberries.

Make A Place To Perch

It’s best to provide a woodpecker feeder that includes a tail prop. Most species have zygodactyl feet, so they have two back and front toes. This helps them grip their favorite trees in a vertical position. A tail prop will help the bird get the best grip so they can hang in a vertical position.

Treats They Love

Woodpeckers aren’t too picky when it comes to eating. They love nuts, berries, tree sap, and worms. They will also eat acorns and sunflower seeds. You can even lure some with fruit like grapes and apples. Their favorite thing might be suet. This is a formula bird food made of animal fat and other ingredients. It gives them a quick boost of energy. It’s a bit of a substitute for insects. It’s best to offer this in a wire cage so you only have to refill it once a week.

Make A Special Feeder

Woodpeckers need a special upright feeder. This will help their feeding posture. You can use a hanging hopper feeder, which is a special suet plug feeder. You should place these feeders near trees so they can naturally go from their tree to feeding on your feeder. Some woodpeckers will feast on your hummingbird feeder’s sugar water. If they enjoy feeding here, make sure this feeder has large ports for their big beak.

Northern Flicker Woodpecker

FAQ Questions About Woodpeckers

The average lifespan is from 4 to 12 years in the wild, depending on the species.

The two largest woodpeckers in the world are the imperial woodpecker and the ivory-billed woodpecker, both are critically endangered. The largest confirmed woodpecker is the great slaty woodpecker (Mulleripicus pulverulentus) at 48–58 centimeters (19–23 inches) long and a weight of 360–563 grams (0.794–1.241 lb).

Migration

Woodpeckers are colorful and beautiful birds, well-known for pecking the wood of trees with their pointed beaks.

How many species are there throughout the globe?

These beautiful birds make up about 200 different species.

Where do they live?

Woodpeckers live in almost every area of the globe. The only place they don’t reside is in New Zealand, New Guinea, Madagascar, and Australia.

Do they all live in trees?

Most of the species can be found in the woods or forests on trees. Some are known to actually live in deserts and rocky hillsides.

What is their lifespan?

A woodpecker will usually live from four to 12 years, depending on their species.

How big do woodpeckers get?

The largest woodpecker alive is the great salty woodpecker. It is about 19–23 inches long. The other largest two species are thought to be extinct. These are the imperial woodpecker and the ivory-billed woodpecker.

What are the most common colors of woodpeckers?

The most common colors of species include red, yellow, black, and white. Some do have orange, gold, and brown. The brighter colors are often found in patches along their head, neck, or back.

How do woodpeckers “peck” so much?

These strong birds have tough bills made for drilling holes. They also have long tongues that are sticky just for extracting food.

How do the birds get food out of their hole?

This sticky tongue is about four inches long. It’s usually barbed so it makes it easier to extract bugs and sap from holes in the trees. When not using its tongue, a woodpecker will wrap it around the back of its head.

How do they communicate?

Most birds sing, but woodpeckers don’t communicate this way. They do chirp and talk, but mainly, they drum on objects. Anything that echoes loudly is the perfect way to communicate for these birds. They drum to attract their mate and establish their territories.

What do woodpeckers usually eat?

Woodpeckers love all kinds of nuts and fruit. They will also eat insects and worms in their trees. They even eat the sap from live trees. Many people love the fact that these birds like to dine on their insects, so they keep bugs away.

How much does a woodpecker peck?

These birds are able to peck 20 times per second. They can usually peck about 10,000 to 12,000 pecks per day.

Woodpecker Behavior And Migration Patterns

Not all woodpecker species fly south for the winter, but are found to stay year-round in the region. They nest in these areas by chiseling roosting cavities in the trees. These are little hollows where they can take shelter during the cooler nights of the year. The Red-headed Woodpecker is one species that does follow a regular migratory pattern. It moves to where it can find pecans, acorns, and beechnuts in the cooler months. This is usually in its breeding range in neighboring states.

Woodpeckers are a unique, beautiful bird that bird watchers enjoy spotting. They’re easy to spot when you can hear their pecking, but it’s even more interesting to spot when you see their gorgeous marks. Look for them in your local wooded areas today.

Woodpecker Facts

Woodpeckers Have Impressively Long Tongues

The woodpecker’s tongue can be twice the size of their bill. This way, they can reach for insects inside of the holes that they are pecking at. When they are not using their tongue for catching insects, their tongue will curl around the back of their head, in between their skull and their skin. Their long tongue is sticky and it can also be barbed to help pull the insects out from holes.

Woodpeckers Can Cling To Trees

The woodpeckers have strong tail feathers. This helps them hold them up on a tree trunk. Furthermore, they have two front toes and two back toes (zygodactyl feet), giving them more support.

Woodpeckers Have Furry Noses

If you look closely at a woodpecker, you will notice that they have furry noses. However, their feathered-covered noses serve an important purpose. It helps keeps the dust and splinters out of their nose while they peck on wood.

Woodpeckers Do Not Get Headaches

You would think that with all that head-banging, the woodpecker would feel the impact of their pecking on wood. However, the design of the woodpecker’s bill helps distribute the shock throughout their skull, which is incredibly thick.

Woodpeckers Like Their Nests To Be Perfect

These perfectionists nest in tree cavities. They carve out the access hole themselves. If you see a woodpecker’s nest, you will notice that the entryway is carved into a perfect circle.

Woodpeckers Are Music-Makers

Most animals tend to make sound with their own bodies. However, the woodpecker is one of the only animals in the animal kingdom that will use a variety of objects to produce sound. They will drum on metal, wood, and other objects as a means to attract a mate, locate food or establish territory.

They Prefer To Stay Vertically

When a woodpecker climbs down a tree, they will stay upright, meaning that they lower themselves by leading with their tail. Most insect-eating birds will crawl down a tree head-first. Experts claim that this allows the woodpecker to find more insects since they can access the tree differently.

Woodpeckers Are Fond Of Nuts

Not only do woodpeckers eat insects, but they are quite particular to nuts and berries. For those who love to attract woodpeckers to their yard, this makes it easy as you can set up a nut feeder to lure them to your yard.

Woodpeckers Like New Holes

Each year, the woodpecker will create a new hole to house in. Other bird species take advantage of this and use a woodpecker’s abandoned hole.

Woodpecker Variety

Scientists have found that there are more than 180 woodpecker species throughout the world. They are adapted to different habitats that include deserts, forests, jungles, and more urban settings. Interestingly enough, woodpeckers are not found in Antarctica, Australia, Madagascar, or New Zealand.

Woodpeckers Can Peck 20 Times Per Second

When the woodpecker is feeding, excavating a nest, or drumming, the woodpecker will peck about 20 times per second. In a day, the woodpecker pecks 8,000-12,00o times, on average.

Greatest Threat To The Woodpecker

The woodpecker’s greatest threat is habitat loss. Habitat loss is due to urban development and urban sprawl. Furthermore, the use of insecticides eliminates vital food sources that the woodpecker depends on. Other threats include forest fires that reduce a habitat that the woodpecker needs to survive.

Woody The Woodpecker

Woody The Woodpecker

The most famous woodpecker is, of course, Woody The Woodpecker, which was created in 1940 by Ben “Bugs” Hardaway. As popular as this woodpecker is, however, he is not a distinct species of woodpecker. He has a red head, blue wings and back, and a white underside, possibly an inspiration of the red-headed woodpecker. However, his size is much closer to a pileated woodpecker.