Ohio woodpeckers

OHIO WOODPEACKER Types Identification and More

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One of our favorite backyard visitors is the woodpecker. Many people all around the world are fascinated by these amazing birds that appear to be perched on a tree while they peck at the bark. Woodpeckers are a widespread and extremely varied group of birds that may be found on almost every continent in

the globe. In order to protect their brains from injury while they peck the sides of trees, woodpeckers have also undergone unique modifications to the anatomy of their skulls.

Features of Woodpeckers

BillLong, thick, strong, and chiseled
TongueWith an incredibly long hyoid bone (tongue bone) wrapping around the skull to cushion it from drumming hits, it is lengthy, sticky, and bristles at the tip, acting as a shock absorber and helping to remove insects from trees.
Skullspecific modifications to guard against brain injury when drumming
FeetWith two toes facing forward and two pointing backward, zygodactyls can perch vertically on tree trunks.
Eyesshielded by a nictating membrane that serves as eyewear
Nostrilstiny, slit-like nostrils shielded from dirt by bristly feathers
HabitatLive in a variety of wooded places, such as parks, farmlands, wooded scrublands, woodlots, forests, and woodlands.
Ohio Woodpecker SpeciesEleven species have been observed in Ohio; some of the rarer ones are the red-naped sapsucker, which is rarely seen, and the ivory-billed woodpecker, which may be extinct.

Ohio woodpeckers

The Ohio state is known for its extraordinarily varied terrain and abundance of bird habitats. A birdwatcher’s paradise, the area’s large open fields, marshes, wetlands, lakes, woodlands, and forests are. Ohio is among the top states in the union for year-round bird watching.

Approximately 22 of the world’s approximately 300 species of woodpeckers can be found in the United States. Ohio is home to seven of the 22 species of woodpeckers that I have identified. Of these seven species, a few live in Ohio year-round, while others only visit occasionally.

The Northern Flicker and Red-headed woodpeckers are the Ohio woodpecker species that are more frequently spotted throughout the summer. The two Ohio woodpecker species that are most frequently spotted in the winter are the Downy and Red-bellied varieties.

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest Ohio woodpeckers and the Downy Woodpecker is the smallest Ohio woodpeckers.

Ohio woodpeckers birdzpedia.com

Downy Woodpecker

  • Scientific name – Dryobates pubescens
  • Lifespan – 2 years (average) 11 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 6.3 in (16 cm)
  • Weight – 26.5 g (0.9 oz)
  • Wingspan – 11 in (28 cm)
  • Status – Least concern

The downy woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker species in North America and also the most abundant.

PlumagePied black and white
HeadBlack with two white bars on either side
WingsBlack with white spots
Back and UnderpartsWhite
MaleRed patch on the head
JuvenilesRed cap
BehaviorAgile; similar in appearance to the hairy woodpecker
CallShort, sharp, four-note pik; non-vocal drumming somewhat slower than other woodpecker species
HabitatDeciduous forests, open woodlands, brushy woodland edges
DietPrimarily insects, including ants, caterpillars, and beetle larvae; also eats plant foods such as seeds, grains, berries, and nuts; natural predator of agricultural pests like corn borers, bark borers, and apple borers
Predation ResilienceResilient against deforestation; able to thrive in young forests
Where to FindDeciduous trees in open woodlands, orchards, parks, fields, suburban backyards; frequent bird feeders during winter; often seen among mixed-species flocks
Ohio woodpeckers birdzpedia.com

Hairy Woodpecker

  • Scientific name – Leuconotopicus villosus
  • Lifespan – 15 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 8.6 in (22 cm)
  • Weight – 2.4 oz (67 g)
  • Wingspan – 14.5 in (37 cm)
  • Status – Least concern

Even though the hairy woodpecker has a longer bill and is larger than the downy woodpecker, it can be challenging to tell the two apart. Examining the outer tail feather, which is spotted in downy woodpeckers and plain white in hairy woodpeckers, is an excellent place to start.

Plumage and SizeVaries across subspecies; northern birds typically larger; underparts range from white to dirty-brown; eastern subspecies have thicker facial stripes and are spottier than those in the far west; Ohio hairy woodpeckers: white below, extensive white spots on wings, prominent facial stripes
CallCommon call: sharp, low-pitched peek; also produces a rattling whinny
DietPrimarily insects including bark beetles, corn borers, crop-destroying moths, ants, bees, wasps, spiders, and other arthropods; small portion of diet includes plant foods such as seeds and berries
HabitatMature deciduous forests, forest edges, plantations, open woodlands
ConservationWidespread and thriving species; potential threat from forest fragmentation; competition with European starlings for nesting sites
Where to Find in OhioOccur throughout the state, more common in western farm areas; found in woodlots, parks, cemeteries, recently burned forests, decaying stands attracting bark beetles; also in suburban areas and occasionally visit backyard feeders
Ohio woodpeckers birdzpedia.com

Red-Billed Woodpecker

  • Scientific name – Melanerpes carolinus
  • Lifespan – 12 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 9.5 in (24 cm)
  • Weight – 2.6 oz (73.5 g)
  • Wingspan – 16.5 in (42 cm)
  • Status – Least Concern

The red-bellied woodpecker is an attractive bird with striking coloration.

White BarsPresent
UnderpartsGrey with a faint, almost unnoticeable reddish tinge on the belly
Head (Male)Bright red cap
Head (Female)Red nape and a red patch above the bill
VocalizationHighly vocal; produce a range of vocalizations from a loud trill to a repetitive churr-churr-churr
HabitatWoodlands and forests
DietMainly arthropods including insects, spiders, and other invertebrates; also eat plant foods such as seeds and nuts
PopulationCommon in Ohio; stable global population with an increasing trend over a vast and expanded range; does well around human-populated areas
Where to Find in OhioNear forests and residential areas with large trees; regular visitors to backyard feeders
Ohio woodpeckers birdzpedia.com

Pileated woodpecker

  • Scientific name – Dryocopus pileatus
  • Lifespan – 12 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 44,5 cm (17,5 in)
  • Weight – 11 oz (300 g)
  • Wingspan – 28 in (70.5 cm)

One huge and unusual species is the pileated woodpecker. It is among the largest woodpecker species found in North America.

PlumageMostly black with white stripes extending from the face down either side of the throat; dark red crest
Throat (Males)Red stripe
HabitatLarge tracts of mature forests, particularly hardwoods, deciduous and mixed woodlands, woodlots, and parks with ample large trees
DietPredators of carpenter ants; prey on other ants, termites, wood-boring beetle larvae, flies, caterpillars, cockroaches, and grasshoppers; also eat plant foods such as seeds, nuts, fruits, and berries
Interesting FactEnjoy berries that are poisonous to other animals such as those of poison ivy
ConservationWidespread and thriving species; able to survive in a wide range of wooded habitats, including around human habitations; competition for nesting sites with other species such as European starlings, bluebirds, and other woodpeckers
Where to FindMore common in eastern and southern forests but also occur in large tracts of woodlands in the west; look for them in reforested areas and young forests, especially those with a fair amount of large, dead trees; can also be seen in woody suburban areas
Ohio woodpeckers birdzpedia.com

Northern Flicker

  • Scientific name – Colaptes auratus
  • Lifespan – 9 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 12.5 in (32 cm)
  • Weight – 4.4 oz (126.5 g)
  • Wingspan – 19 in (48 cm)

The common flicker, or northern flicker, is a medium-sized bird of prey. It belongs to the woodpecker family’s Colaptes genus.

PlumageBrown above with black bars; beige below with black spots; distinctive black crescent shape on upper breast; white rump visible in flight; underwings and undertail golden yellow (red in western birds)
MaleRed stripes extending outwards from base of bill resembling a mustache
CallCackle-like ki ki ki ki
HabitatWoodlands, forest edges, wetlands, swamps, marshes, open fields with large scattered trees
Nesting BehaviorOften nests in holes excavated by other birds
DietMainly insects, particularly beetles, ants, and ant larvae; forage on ground or drill for underground; also eat plant materials such as seeds, fruit, and berries, including berries of poison ivy and poison oak
ConservationWidespread but populations declining primarily due to habitat loss
Where to Find in OhioPresent during the summer; found in open woodlands, forest edges, and suburban areas
Ohio woodpeckers birdzpedia.com

Yellow-Billed Sapsucker

  • Scientific name – Sphyrapicus varius
  • Lifespan – 7 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 7.9 in (20 cm)
  • Weight – 1.7 oz (50.3 g)
  • Wingspan – 14.6 in (37 cm)
  • Status – Least concern

The medium-sized yellow-bellied sapsucker is a member of the woodpecker family’s Sphyrapicus genus. Its golden tint on the belly gave rise to its name.

PlumageBlack upperparts with white spots and a faint yellow tinge; white stripes extend down the sides of the face
ForeheadBoth sexes have a red forehead; brighter in males
ThroatMales have a red throat; white in females
Common CallScruffy, nasal neaah
Interesting FactYellow-bellied sapsuckers often use human-made objects, particularly metal objects, to make drumming noises as they create loud reverberations
Breeding Season HabitatDeciduous and mixed forests
Winter HabitatForest edges, open woodlands, and other semi-open habitats
DietTree sap (primary food source), fruit, insects, spiders, and other invertebrates; drill holes to create sap wells in tree trunks and branches
Population TrendNumbers have increased in the last few decades
Where to Find in OhioFound during fall migration from breeding grounds north of Ohio to the south for winter; look for them around pasturelands, forest clearings, woodland edges, and suburban areas with large trees; presence indicated by neat horizontal rows of holes drilled in trees
Ohio woodpeckers birdzpedia.com

Red-Headed Woodpecker

  • Scientific name – Melanerpes erythrocephalus
  • Lifespan – 3 years (average) 9 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 8.6 in (22 cm)
  • Weight – 2.7 oz (76 g)
  • Wingspan – 16.7 in (42.5 cm)
  • Status – Least concern

The red-bellied woodpecker and this remarkable red-headed woodpecker are closely related. It is a medium-sized bird with strikingly different black, white, and red plumage.

Back and WingsBlack with white secondary feathers
Head and NeckDark red
JuvenilesGrey head instead of red
HabitatDeciduous woodlands, farmlands, orchards, wooded grasslands, forest edges; also destroyed habitats such as burned areas and deforested clearings; during winter, inhabit deciduous, coniferous, and mixed forests
DietMajority of diet consists of plant foods; adept at catching insects in flight; forage on ground and in trees for seeds, nuts, fruits, and insects; occasionally take rodents and eggs of other birds
Interesting FactKnown to store food for later consumption by caching nuts, seeds, and insects in cracks and crevices; cover stashes with pieces of bark
ConservationDrastically declined due to habitat loss, inadequate nesting sites, and low food supply; listed as “near-threatened” but re-classified as “least concern” following habitat management initiatives
Where to FindMore numerous in summer as northern populations migrate south for winter; more prevalent in western Ohio; found in scattered woodlots, open areas with suitable trees, agricultural areas, forest plantations; listen for high-pitched, shrill tchur call; frequent garden bird feeders
Ohio woodpeckers birdzpedia.com

Common Species Of Woodpeckers In Ohio Summary

NameLength in InchesWingspan in Inches
Hairy Woodpecker7-1013-17
Downy Woodpecker11.810-12
Pileated Woodpecker16-1926-30
Red-bellied Woodpecker4-10.515-18
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker7-8.515
Northern Flicker11-1421.5
Red-headed Woodpecker7.5-9.816.7

In Ohio the Follwoing Species Have Only Seldom Been Seen

Red-Naped Sapsucker

  • Scientific name – Sphyrapicus nuchalis
  • Lifespan – 4 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 7.9 in (20 cm)
  • Weight – 1.7 oz (49 g)
  • Wingspan – 16.5 in (42 cm)
  • Status – Least concern

It was eventually discovered that the red-naped sapsucker is a distinct species from the yellow-bellied sapsucker, which was before thought to be a subspecies.

HeadBlack with red forehead, white stripes, and prominent red spot on nape
Back and WingsBlack with white bars
Breast and BellyYellow
Throat (Males)Red patch
Throat (Females)White above and red below
Habitat (Breeding)Deciduous and evergreen forests, forest edges, parks, gardens
Habitat (Winter)Wider range including mixed forests
DietTree sap (primary food source), insects, fruit
DistributionWestern parts of North America, breeding in Rocky Mountains and Great Basin region, migrating south for winter; common throughout range, stable populations
Ohio SightingsRare sightings in Ohio, observed only a few times; more commonly found in western regions
Ohio woodpeckers birdzpedia.com

Black-Backed Woodpecker

  • Scientific name – Picoides arcticus
  • Lifespan – 8 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 9.1 in (23 cm)
  • Weight – 2.6 oz (74.5 g)
  • Wingspan – 16 in (41 cm)
  • Status – Least concern

Ohio is home to another uncommon sighting of the Black-backed Woodpecker. Its name implies that its wings, head, and back are all black.

UnderpartsWhite with black bars on the flanks
Male CapProminent yellow cap
HabitatConiferous forests in the north and west; thrive in recently burned forests and habitats with abundant dead trees and beetle outbreaks
DietSpecialist feeders of wood-boring beetles
Ohio SightingsRarely spotted in Ohio; best chance of spotting in recently burned forests with large trees
Ohio woodpeckers birdzpedia.com

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

  • Scientific name – Campephilus principalis
  • Lifespan – 15 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 19.1 in (48,5 cm)
  • Weight – 18 oz (510 g)
  • Wingspan – 30.7 in (78 cm)
  • Status – Critically endangered

The largest species of woodpecker in North America is the ivory-billed woodpecker. It is generally thought to be extinct, though.

PlumageGlossy black or dark purple
White LinesProminent white lines extending from cheeks down the back; wings edged white
BillLarge and white
HabitatHistorically found in primary upland forests, dense swamplands, and disturbed areas
RangeBelieved to include the Ohio River Valley; remains found in southcentral Ohio in the 1900s
Conservation StatusListed as critically endangered; last possible encounter captured in 2005 in Arkansas but not confirmed; authorities strongly believe species is extinct; factors contributing to decline include excessive hunting and destruction of mature forest habitats by deforestation
Ohio woodpeckers birdzpedia.com

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

  • Scientific name – Dryobates borealis
  • Lifespan – 16 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 8.5 in (21.5 cm)
  • Weight – 1.6 oz (47 g)
  • Wingspan – 14.2 in (36 cm)
  • Status – Near threatened (IUCN) / Endangered (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services)

The declining long-leaf pine forests are home to the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. It’s a pied black and white bird of medium size.

UpperpartsJet-black with white bars
HeadDistinctive black cap and nape; large white cheek patches; small red lines on either side of head (cockade)
HabitatHistorically found in old primary forests, particularly lightning-dependent long-leaf pine forests; now found in some mature pine forests and occasionally in young forests and stands
DietMainly insects such as ants, termites, and other invertebrates; also eat plant foods including seeds, fruits, and berries; often forage in mixed-species flocks
DistributionEndemic to southeastern United States; once common but now primarily found in protected areas; observed in Ohio, although records are limited
Conservation StatusListed as “endangered” by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services; “near-threatened” by IUCN
Where to FindSlim chance of spotting; most likely to occur in open understory of mature pine forests; most nesting sites within protected areas in southeastern states
Ohio woodpeckers birdzpedia.com

Attracting Woodpeckers to Come to Your Backyard

Check out these options that are the greatest for woodpeckers to save time and avoid wasting money. There are so many options for bird feeders and food that it can be tough to know which is ideal to buy.

The best bird feeders for woodpecker attraction:

  • For smaller woodpeckers, like Downy Woodpeckers, an upside-down suet feeder is a great way to provide shelter from the weather and deter larger birds.
  • Tail-supported suet feeders are preferred by pileated woodpeckers.
  • Suet feeders that are squirrel-proof and have a cage to prevent larger birds from hogging all the turns.

The following are the best bird seed and suet to draw woodpeckers:

  • Purchasing suet cakes in bulk is a more cost-effective option.
  • Birds can open black oil sunflower seeds more easily because of their thinner shell.
  • Woodpeckers enjoy mealworm suet as a pleasant delicacy.
  • Woodpeckers eat high-energy foods like peanut butter suet to stay warm throughout the winter.

Woodpeckers will be drawn to your garden by birdbaths:

  • A lovely pedestal birdbath will provide woodpeckers somewhere to drink and clean.
  • Your best chance of having drinking water that doesn’t freeze during the winter is to install a heated birdbath.

To get more woodpeckers in your backyard, install nest boxes:

  • These nest boxes may draw in a pair of woodpeckers to procreate.
  • Flicker nest boxes are an excellent option as well.

Plants that naturally bear berries to draw more woodpeckers to your backyard:

Planting these can be purchased:

  • Bayberries in grape
  • Elderberries


Indeed, woodpeckers are fascinating birds with distinctive behaviors and a common appearance among the several species that comprise the genus. When out in the field, it can be quite helpful to know the specifics of how to identify them and which habitats to look for.

However, because woodpeckers depend on forests and woods, degradation has a negative effect on them. For nesting purposes, they also depend on the existence of dead trees. There is fierce rivalry in some places for decaying and dead trees that serve as nesting locations.

Additionally, certain species may suffer from fire impact control and suppression techniques. However, habitat loss brought on mainly by logging and deforestation poses the biggest threat to woodpecker conservation. It is evident that woodpeckers are an important species for the environment and the

economy. They also infuse our lives with a sense of wonder. Make sure your backyard feeders are well-stocked with fresh fruit, nuts, and suet, especially in the winter, to draw woodpeckers to your garden. Additionally you are sure to be visited by some of these delightful birds.


1. What types of woodpeckers can be found in Ohio?

  • The Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker are among the woodpecker species that call Ohio home.

2. Where can I find woodpeckers in Ohio?

  • In Ohio, woodpeckers can be found in a variety of habitats, such as parks, orchards, woods, woodlands, and suburban areas with the right kind of trees. See them searching for food and insects by drilling into tree trunks.

3. What do woodpeckers eat?

  • The main food source for woodpeckers is insects found in tree bark, including ants, beetles, caterpillars, and larvae. Depending on the species and season, they may also eat fruits, seeds, nuts, and sap.

4. Are woodpeckers beneficial to the ecosystem?

  • Yes, woodpeckers are very important in keeping insect populations under control, especially pests that cause damage to trees. They aid in preserving the health of forests and woods by creating holes in the bark of trees to gain access to insects.

5. How can I attract woodpeckers to my backyard?

  • The answer is that you may draw woodpeckers to your backyard by having suet feeders, birdhouses that are the right size for the birds, and natural food sources like trees that are home to insects. Steer clear of insecticides that may damage the insects that woodpeckers eat.

6. How can I differentiate between different woodpecker species?

  • To identify a species of woodpecker, one must consider its size, plumage patterns, and distinguishing characteristics like coloration, size of the crest, and facial markings. You may learn to identify and distinguish between different species of woodpeckers with the use of field guides and birdwatching tools.

7. Do woodpeckers drum on trees for communication?

  • Yes, during mating season, woodpeckers use drumming on trees as a means of communication and territory marking. Pecking quickly on resonant surfaces, such deadwood or metal items, produces a repetitive pounding sound.

10. Are woodpeckers affected by habitat loss in Ohio?

  • Answer: Yes, habitat loss due to deforestation and urban development can impact woodpecker populations by reducing suitable nesting and foraging habitat. Conservation efforts such as habitat preservation and restoration are important for supporting woodpecker populations in Ohio.

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