Woodpeckers
Click a picture or scroll to see species account

Birds that mostly black and white and perch on the sides of trees. Undulating flight, drum during breeding: a series of rapid beats used to define territory.
Downy Woodpecker Hairy Woodpecker Pileated Woodpecker Flicker Red-breasted Sapsucker

 

Downy Woodpecker  Picoides pubescens

How to identify it:  Black and white woodpecker with black spots on the the back, small bill relative to the width of the head. Males have a small red patch on the backside of the head.

This is perhaps the most common woodpecker in mixed or deciduous woods, foraging for insects hidden in dead alder and other soft wood branches. It is very similar  to the Hairy woodpecker, the two can be separated by the size of the bill.  Downy's are common in riparian woodlands along streams and swamps. In addition to the insects inside of wood they will eat berries, catch insects occasionally on the wing and also forage on the slender trunks of shrubs, opening galls to extract the larvae inside.

 In mid-April the mated pair starts excavation of  a nest hole in a dead tree trunk or large dead upright branch.  Eggs are laid in early May and  the young fledge in mid to late June.  This woodpecker sometimes joins the winter mixed flocks, foraging on the trunks alongside Brown creepers and Red-breasted nuthatches.  Once it discovers suet, it can be a regular visitor to a suet feeder, gulping  down large quantities.  It makes a sharp, Peeeek call.

  Downy: Small Bill Hairy: Large Bill
   
Hairy Woodpecker  Picoides villosus

How to Identify it:  A black and white woodpecker, similar to the Downy with a much larger bill.

Like the Downy, this woodpecker will forage in deciduous woods but also works the darker conifer forests as well.  It tends to forage more on the trunks and larger branches, while the smaller billed Downy works the smaller branches.  It nests in conifer forests but picks out a dead deciduous tree for its nest site.  Pairs form in the winter, nest building begins in mid-April, eggs are laid in early May and young of the year can be seen in mid to late-June.

 

   
Pileated Woodpecker  Dryocpus pileatus

How to Identify it: Crow-sized woodpecker with prominent and distinctive red crest.

This is the largest woodpecker in North America and it makes large oval excavations in dead trees in search of wood boring insect larvae and Carpenter ant larvae.  A mated pair maintains a permanent territory and during spring they make their distinctive laughing calls to stay in contact.  The pair will do a head swinging courtship display in March and then excavate a nesting hole in a large tree.  The young of the year can be seen as early as late-May but June is more common.  The young of the year are fed by parents until the end of June and then go their own way.

The large cavities which this bird excavates for nesting are made fresh each year and abandoned nests are prime homes for squirrels.

Click here to hear this bird

 

 

 

   
Northern Flicker  Colaptes auratus

How to Identify it:  Robin-sized woodpecker with heavy spots on the  belly, a black chevron mark on its upper chest, the underside of wings flashes yellow or red in flight. Males have a red or black  moustache.

This woodpecker prefers to forage on the ground rather than in trees, although it does spend time on deciduous tree trunks. It makes a loud, Keeleer call to announce its presence.  In March the mated pair will dance around a tree, wagging their heads and giving a wika wika call, they will excavate a nest in a well decayed Alder or other deciduous tree and young can seen following after adults begging for food in mid-June.

   
Red breasted Sapsucker

How to Identify it: Black and white woodpecker with a red head.

Sapsuckers drill a series of holes in trees, then return to harvest the sap and the insects which get caught in the sap.  They may remove large pieces of bark on smaller trees such as willow and you can often find their machine gun-like holes in cedar trees.  The bird will return again and again to freshen the hole and harvest the sap.  Rufus Hummingbirds utilize the sap wells and often a good tree will become a defended part of a hummingbirds territory.  Sapsuckers build a nest in a well decayed deciduous tree and the young of the year can be seen by the end of June.