The 8 Woodpeckers Of Florida (And How To Spot Them)

The 8 Woodpeckers Of Florida

Florida is home to eight species of woodpeckers, some of which are permanent residents, while others are seasonal visitors.

These birds are fascinating to watch and listen to, as they drum on trees, feed on insects, fruits, nuts, and sap, and carve out nest cavities.

In this guide, we’ll introduce you to the eight woodpeckers of Florida and provide tips on how to spot them.

1. Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker
  • Species: Dryocopus pileatus
  • Body Length: 16″ – 19″
  • Wingspan: 26″ – 30″
  • Weight: 8.8 – 10.6 oz

The pileated woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in Florida and one of the largest in the world. It has a striking appearance, with a black body, white stripes on the face and neck, and a bright red crest. Here are some features to help you identify this impressive bird.

Easy To Spot Characteristics:

  • The male has a red stripe on the cheek, while the female has a black one.
  • The bill is long, chisel-shaped, and black.
  • The wings are black with white spots and bars.
  • The tail is black with white outer feathers.
  • The legs and feet are gray.

You may have seen this bird before, as it is fairly common and widespread in Florida. It can be found in almost any wooded habitat, except for the Keys. It is also becoming more tolerant of human presence and may visit your backyard if you have large trees.

Where and When To Find Them

The pileated woodpecker is a resident of Florida, meaning it stays year-round. It prefers mature forests with large dead or dying trees, where it excavates its nest holes and forages for insects. It can also be found in swamps, open woodlands, parks, and suburban areas.

Pileated Woodpecker Range Map:

Pileated Woodpecker Range Map:
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

The best time to find this bird is in the morning or evening when it is most active. You may hear its loud drumming or its distinctive call, which sounds like a series of “wuk-wuk-wuk” notes. You may also see its large oval-shaped holes in tree trunks or branches, which are signs of its presence.

Pileated Woodpecker Call:

Jim Berry, XC797066. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/797066.

Pileated Woodpecker Drumming:

Russ Wigh, XC649554. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/649554.

Behavior

The pileated woodpecker is a solitary bird, except during the breeding season when it forms a pair bond.

It defends its territory from other pileated woodpeckers and may chase away smaller woodpeckers.

It feeds mainly on carpenter ants and other insects, which it extracts from wood using its powerful bill. It may also eat fruits, nuts, berries, and seeds.

This bird is very adaptable and can live in a variety of habitats, as long as there are enough trees to provide food and shelter. It can even use human-made structures, such as utility poles or wooden buildings, as nesting or foraging sites. However, it may also cause damage to these structures by drilling holes in them.

Interesting Facts

The pileated woodpecker has a remarkable vocalization that resembles a laugh. It is sometimes called the “woodpecker’s laugh” or the “jungle bird”. The male and female have slightly different calls, with the male’s being higher-pitched and faster than the female’s.

This bird also has a unique way of communicating with its mate or offspring. It uses its bill to tap on hollow trees or logs, creating a drumming sound that can be heard from far away. The drumming serves as a territorial signal or a contact call.

2. Red-Headed Woodpecker

Red-Headed Woodpecker
  • Species: Melanerpes erythrocephalus
  • Body Length: 7.5″ – 9.1″
  • Wingspan: approx. 16.5″
  • Weight: 2 – 3.2 oz

If you are looking for a striking and charismatic bird to spot in Florida, you might want to keep an eye out for the red-headed woodpecker.

This medium-sized woodpecker has a distinctive appearance, with a bold red head and neck, a black back and tail, and white underparts and wing patches. Both males and females have the same plumage, unlike some other woodpeckers.

Easy To Spot Characteristics

The red-headed woodpecker is easy to identify by its bright red head, but here are some other features to look for:

  • Possesses a prominent, rounded head and a robust, chisel-shaped bill adept at drilling into wood.
  • Exhibits a distinctive white patch on the lower back, visible while perched or in flight.
  • Emanates a resonant, rattling call, reminiscent of “krrrrr” or “tchur-tchur”.
  • Demonstrates a habit of stashing food in tree cavities or crevices, including acorns, nuts, and insects.
  • Displays territorial and aggressive tendencies towards other avian species, particularly fellow woodpeckers.

You may be familiar with this bird from its appearance in old cartoons or logos, but seeing it in real life is a special treat.

Where and When To Find Them

The red-headed woodpecker is a year-round resident in the northern and central parts of Florida, but it is rare or absent in the southern part of the state.

It prefers open habitats with scattered trees, such as pine savannas, oak woodlands, orchards, parks, golf courses, and suburban areas. It avoids dense forests and swamps.

The best time to find this bird is in the morning or evening when it is most active. It may be seen flying between trees or perching on branches, fence posts, or utility poles. It may also be attracted to bird feeders that offer sunflower seeds, suet, or corn.

The red-headed woodpecker breeds from May to July, and may have one or two broods per year. It nests in a cavity that it excavates in a dead or dying tree, usually 10 to 80 feet above the ground.

Red-Headed Woodpecker Range Map:

Red-Headed Woodpecker Range Map:
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

The female lays 4 to 7 white eggs that are incubated by both parents for about 12 days. The young fledge after 27 to 31 days, and may stay with the parents for several months.

Behavior

The red-headed woodpecker is a versatile and adaptable bird that can exploit a variety of food sources and habitats.

It feeds on insects, seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, and occasionally small vertebrates. It can catch insects in the air, glean them from tree bark, or dig them out of wood. It can also store food for later use by wedging it into cracks or holes in trees or wooden structures.

This bird is not shy of human presence, and may even benefit from some human activities that create open habitats or provide food sources.

However, it is also vulnerable to habitat loss, competition, predation, and collisions with vehicles or windows.

It is currently listed as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and its population has declined significantly in the past decades.

To support the conservation of this species, it is important to preserve and restore its natural habitats, particularly pine savannas and oak woodlands.

Providing nest boxes or leaving dead or dying trees standing can create suitable nesting sites.

Additionally, avoiding the use of pesticides or herbicides that may harm its food sources or health is crucial. To prevent window collisions, applying decals or curtains can be effective.

Lastly, supporting conservation efforts and research on this species contributes to its long-term preservation.

Interesting Facts

The red-headed woodpecker has some unique traits that make it stand out from other woodpeckers.

Remarkably, it’s one of the few woodpeckers capable of mimicking the calls of other birds, including hawks, jays, and chickadees.

Red-Headed Woodpecker Call:

John A. Middleton Jr., XC733263. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/733263.

Red-Headed Woodpecker Drumming:

David A. Brinkman, XC774908. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/774908.

This species showcases adaptability not only in communication but also in its diet, shifting from primarily insects in summer to seeds and nuts in winter.

Another exceptional trait is its ability to store substantial food amounts, often filling entire trees with acorns.

It is also one of the few woodpeckers that can display its redhead feathers as a signal of aggression or attraction.

Furthermore, its captivating appearance has led to its depiction on postage stamps, coins, logos, cartoons, and artworks.

3. Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker
  • Species: Melanerpes carolinus
  • Body Length: approx. 9.4″
  • Wingspan: 13″ – 16.5″
  • Weight: 2 – 3.2 oz

Are you looking for a colorful and charismatic bird to brighten up your backyard? Then you might want to meet the red-bellied woodpecker, a medium-sized woodpecker that lives in the eastern United States, including Florida.

This bird has a striking appearance, with a vivid red cap and nape, black and white barred back and wings, and a pale reddish belly that gives it its name.

It also has a loud and varied voice, making chattering, drumming, and whinnying sounds to communicate with its mates and rivals.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker Call:

Manuel Oudard, XC839868. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/839868.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker Drumming:

Meena Haribal, XC638325. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/638325.

Easy To Spot Characteristics

The red-bellied woodpecker is not hard to identify, especially if you know what to look for:

  • The male and female red-bellied woodpecker look similar, except that the male has a red cap that extends from the bill to the back of the head, while the female has a red patch only on the nape and a gray forehead.
  • The red-bellied woodpecker has a long, chisel-like bill that is black on the upper mandible and pale on the lower mandible. It uses its bill to drill holes in trees and extract insects, seeds, nuts, and fruits.
  • This bird has a stiff, pointed tail that is black with white bars. It uses its tail as a prop to balance on tree trunks and branches.

You may have seen this bird before, as it is quite common and widespread in Florida. It can be found in a variety of habitats, such as forests, woodlands, swamps, parks, gardens, and even urban areas.

Where And When To Find Them

The red-bellied woodpecker is a resident species in Florida, meaning that it stays there all year round. It does not migrate or change its range significantly.

However, it may move locally depending on food availability and weather conditions.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker Range Map:

Red-Bellied Woodpecker Range Map:
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

The best time to see this bird is during the day, as it is active from dawn to dusk.

It is most vocal in the morning and evening, when it announces its territory and location to other birds. It is also more conspicuous during the breeding season, which lasts from February to July.

The best place to find this bird is where there are trees, especially dead or dying ones that provide nesting cavities and food sources.

The red-bellied woodpecker prefers hardwoods such as oaks, hickories, maples, and beeches, but it can also use pines and palms. It can be found in both natural and human-modified habitats, such as forests, swamps, orchards, parks, golf courses, and backyards.

Behavior

The red-bellied woodpecker is a smart and adaptable bird that can cope with different environmental challenges.

It has a varied diet that includes insects, spiders, worms, snails, seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, sap, and even eggs and nestlings of other birds. It can also visit bird feeders and eat suet, sunflower seeds, peanuts, corn, and bread.

The red-bellied woodpecker is not shy of humans and can often be seen near houses and buildings. It can use human-made structures such as fence posts, utility poles, signs, roofs, and gutters as perches or drumming sites. It can also nest in artificial nest boxes or holes drilled by humans.

Interesting Facts

The male Red-Bellied Woodpecker is known for the red coloration on both its nape and crown. In contrast, the female Red-Bellied Woodpecker displays red only on its nape, leaving the crown devoid of this color.

Interestingly, despite its name, the red belly of the Red-Bellied Woodpecker is not often visible in the field. This can make it slightly challenging to identify the bird based purely on its coloration.

One of the unique physical features of the Red-Bellied Woodpecker is its tongue. It can extend up to 2 inches past the end of their beak, offering a distinct advantage when foraging for food.

As for its diet, the Red-Bellied Woodpeckers are omnivorous and quite adaptable. They’ve adjusted well to life in suburbs and city parks, demonstrating their ability to thrive in different environments.

Lastly, the foot structure of the Red-Bellied Woodpecker sets it apart from other birds. It has two toes pointing forward and two pointing backward – a unique arrangement that aids in gripping and climbing.

4. Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker
  • Species: Picoides pubescens
  • Body Length: 5.5″ – 6.7″
  • Wingspan: 9.8″ – 11.8″
  • Weight: 0.7 – 1 oz

If you are looking for a small and friendly woodpecker to watch in your backyard, you might want to meet the Downy Woodpecker.

This is the smallest woodpecker species in North America, and one of the most common ones in Florida.

you can find them in forests, parks, and even in your shade trees, where they join flocks of chickadees and nuthatches.

Easy To Spot Characteristics

The Downy Woodpecker has a black-and-white pattern on its back, wings, and tail, with a white stripe down its back and black bands on its face. It has a white belly and chest, and a short black bill that looks like a thorn.

The adult males have a red patch on the back of their heads, while the females have plain black heads. Here are some key features to look for:

  • The males have a red patch on the back of the head and a black band across the forehead.
  • Females have no red patches and a white forehead.
  • Both sexes have a white stripe down the back, short black bills, and black spots on white outer tail feathers.

You might confuse the Downy Woodpecker with its larger lookalike, the Hairy Woodpecker, but there are some differences to help you tell them apart.

The Hairy Woodpecker has a longer bill, no black spots on its tail, and a larger body size. The Downy Woodpecker is about 6 inches long, while the Hairy Woodpecker is about 9 inches long.

You are probably familiar with the Downy Woodpecker’s drumming sound, which is a rapid series of taps on a tree or other surface. They use this sound to communicate with each other and to mark their territory. They also make a high-pitched “pik” call that sounds like a squeaky toy.

Downy Woodpecker Call:

Thomas Magarian, XC546154. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/546154.

Downy Woodpecker Drumming:

Joseph Morlan, XC547321. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/547321.

Where And When To Find Them

The Downy Woodpecker is a year-round resident of Florida, and can be found in almost any wooded habitat where deciduous trees are plentiful.

They prefer pine flatwoods, sandhills, hammocks, mixed woods, cypress and hardwood swamps, and urban and suburban areas. They are not very picky about where they nest, and will use natural cavities, old woodpecker holes, or even nest boxes.

Downy Woodpecker Range Map:

Downy Woodpecker Range Map:
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

You can find them at any time of the day, but they are most active in the morning and evening. They are also more visible in the winter, when the leaves have fallen and they are easier to spot on bare branches.

They are not very migratory, but some northern populations may move southward in cold weather.

Behavior

The Downy Woodpecker is an active, diurnal bird that exhibits unique behaviors and adaptability.

Often found in parks and woodlots, it is a solitary creature that prefers its own company and fiercely defends its territory from intruders. This territorial defense can manifest in a variety of ways such as wing flicking, tail fanning, raising its crest, or even holding its bill high.

The Downy Woodpecker’s agility is another notable trait. It swiftly moves over tree trunks, branches, and stems of grasses and wildflowers, often leaning on its stiffened tail feathers for support. Unlike many other woodpeckers, it shows a distinct ability to move horizontally and downwards on trees with ease.

This bird showcases its acrobatic skills while foraging for food. It is comfortable balancing on tiny branches, slender plant galls, sycamore seed balls, and even suet feeders. Its diet is diverse, encompassing insects, spiders, berries, nuts, sap, and human-provided food like sunflower seeds, suet, peanuts, and fruit.

Despite being a creature of the wild, the Downy Woodpecker has shown remarkable adaptability to human-altered environments. It thrives in areas where there are trees or other structures that provide food and shelter, making it a frequent visitor to backyard feeders.

In essence, the Downy Woodpecker is a resilient, agile, and independent bird species that embodies adaptability and resourcefulness.

Interesting Facts

The Downy Woodpecker has a very diverse vocal repertoire, and can make more than 20 different sounds.

Some of these sounds are used for courtship, alarm, or contact, while others are used for specific situations like begging, scolding, or fighting. The male and female have different calls, and can recognize each other by their voices.

One of the most interesting sounds that the Downy Woodpecker makes is a mimicry of the Eastern Screech-Owl.

This sound is a long, descending whinny that sounds very similar to the owl’s call. The Downy Woodpecker uses this sound to scare away other birds from its feeding or nesting sites, or to attract a mate. It is not clear how the Downy Woodpecker learned this sound, but it may have been influenced by living near the owl’s habitat.

5. Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker
  • Species: Leuconotopicus villosus
  • Body Length: 7.1″ – 10.2″
  • Wingspan: 13″ – 16.1″
  • Weight: 1.4 – 3.4 oz

Have you ever heard a loud drumming sound coming from a tree trunk? If you live in Florida, you might have encountered a Hairy Woodpecker, one of the eight woodpecker species that can be found in the Sunshine State.

Easy To Spot Characteristics

These medium-sized birds are slightly larger than their cousins, the Downy Woodpeckers, and they have a distinctive black and white pattern on their feathers. The males also have a flash of red on the back of their heads.

If you want to identify a Hairy Woodpecker, here are some features to look for:

  • A long, chisel-like bill that is almost as long as the head
  • A black back with a large white patch
  • Black wings with white spots
  • A white belly and chest
  • A black stripe that runs from the bill to the nape
  • A white stripe above and below the eye
  • A red patch on the back of the head (only in males)

You might be familiar with these birds if you have a backyard feeder, as they often visit suet or sunflower feeders. They also like to forage on large trees, especially pines and oaks, where they drill holes to find insects and sap.

Where And When To Find Them

Hairy Woodpeckers are year-round residents in Florida, but they are more common in the northern and central parts of the state.

They prefer wooded habitats, such as forests, woodlots, parks, and suburban areas. They can also be found in swamps, mangroves, and hammocks.

Hairy Woodpecker Range Map:

Hairy Woodpecker Range Map:
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

The best time to find them is during the day, when they are active and vocal. They make a variety of sounds, such as whinnying calls, rattling trills, and loud drumming.

Hairy Woodpecker Call:

Ned Bohman, XC810091. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/810091.

Hairy Woodpecker Drumming:

Paul Driver, XC772370. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/772370.

The drumming is used to communicate with other woodpeckers, to attract mates, and to mark territories.

Behavior

Hairy Woodpeckers are adaptable birds that can cope with human disturbances.

They often nest in dead or dying trees, where they excavate a cavity for their eggs. They may also use nest boxes or natural cavities.

They are monogamous and territorial, defending their nests from predators and intruders.

One of the predators that Hairy Woodpeckers face is the European Starling, an invasive species that competes with them for nest sites. To prevent starlings from taking over their nests, Hairy Woodpeckers may cover the entrance hole with wood chips or bark.

Hairy Woodpeckers are also known to interact with human-made structures and environments. For example, they may peck on metal roofs, gutters, siding, or chimneys, creating loud noises and sometimes damage. They may also visit bird feeders, especially in winter when food is scarce.

Interesting Facts

Hairy Woodpeckers have some unique traits that make them stand out from other birds.

The Downy Woodpecker boasts a unique anatomical feature; a long tongue that can extend up to three times the length of their bill.

This remarkable adaptation allows them to probe for insects hidden deep inside tree holes or bark crevices, effectively turning inaccessible spaces into food sources.

In addition to their long tongue, they possess a special bone known as the hyoid. This bone, which wraps around their skull, serves as a shock absorber, allowing the Downy Woodpecker to withstand the impact of pecking on hard surfaces. This is a crucial adaptation considering their frequent and vigorous pecking.

These birds also exhibit a range of vocalizations, each corresponding to different situations. For instance, a short “peek” sound is typically emitted when they feel threatened or alarmed. A longer “pik” sound signifies agitation, while a descending “wheer” sound is commonly heard when they are in flight.

Interestingly, Downy Woodpeckers are able to distinguish between males and females through their calls. The males’ calls are notably lower-pitched than those of the females, providing an auditory cue for gender identification.

The Downy Woodpecker’s lifespan is another testament to its resilience. In the wild, these birds can live up to 15 years which is one of the longest for any woodpecker species.

6. Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker
  • Species: Leuconotopicus borealis
  • Body Length: 7.9″ – 9.1″
  • Wingspan: approx. 14.2″
  • Weight: 1.5 – 1.8 oz

Have you ever seen a black and white woodpecker with a red streak on its head? If you live in Florida, you might have a chance to spot one of these rare and endangered birds: the red-cockaded woodpecker.

Easy To Spot Characteristics

The red-cockaded woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker, about 9 inches (22.9 centimeters) long and 1.8 ounces in weight. It has a black head and neck, a white cheek patch, a white belly, and a barred black and white back.

The male has a small red streak above the cheek, called a cockade, but it is often hidden by the feathers. The female lacks the red cockade.

  • The black head and neck distinguish the red-cockaded woodpecker from other woodpeckers in Florida, such as the downy woodpecker, the hairy woodpecker, and the red-bellied woodpecker, which have white or red markings on their heads.
  • The white cheek patch is another distinctive feature of the red-cockaded woodpecker, which helps it communicate with other members of its group. The cheek patch can change in size depending on the mood of the bird.
  • The barred black and white back is similar to that of other woodpeckers, but this woodpecker has more white than black on its wings and tail.

You might be familiar with other woodpeckers that visit your backyard or neighborhood, such as the pileated woodpecker or the northern flicker. But the red-cockaded woodpecker is more elusive and secretive, preferring to live in large areas of old-growth pine forests. To see one, you will need to venture into its natural habitat.

Where and When to Find Them

The red-cockaded woodpecker is found throughout the southeastern United States and Florida, but only where its limited habitat exists.

The red-cockaded woodpecker requires old-growth pine forests with open understory for its habitat. It prefers longleaf pines and living pines that are at least 85 years old. These pines have thick bark that allows the red-cockaded woodpecker to excavate cavities for nesting and roosting.

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Range Map:

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Range Map:
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

In Florida, this bird inhabits slash, longleaf, and loblolly pines. Some of the places where you can find them include:

  • Disney Wilderness Preserve in Osceola County
  • Ocala National Forest in Marion County
  • Apalachicola National Forest in Franklin County
  • Eglin Air Force Base in Okaloosa County
  • St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Wakulla County

The best time to find them is during the early morning or late afternoon when they are most active. You can also look for them during their breeding season, which is between April and June. During this time, they are more vocal and visible as they defend their territories and feed their young.

Behavior

The red-cockaded woodpecker is a social and cooperative bird that lives in groups of two to nine individuals.

Each group consists of a breeding pair and several helpers, usually male offspring from previous years. The helpers assist the breeding pair with incubating the eggs, feeding the nestlings and fledglings, and maintaining the cavities.

The red-cockaded woodpecker is also a territorial bird that defends its home range from other groups and predators. The home range can vary from 60 to 600 acres (24 to 243 hectares), depending on the quality of the habitat.

The red-cockaded woodpecker marks its territory with resin wells, which are holes that it drills around its cavities to make the pine trees ooze sticky sap. The sap deters predators such as snakes, raccoons, and squirrels from climbing up the trees and raiding the nests.

The red-cockaded woodpecker is not very adaptable to human disturbances and habitat changes. It needs frequent fires to maintain its habitat by reducing the understory vegetation and preventing hardwood trees from encroaching on the pines.

However, fire suppression, logging, agriculture, and development have reduced and fragmented its habitat, making it vulnerable to extinction. The red-cockaded woodpecker is currently listed as an endangered species by the federal and state governments, and its population is estimated at about 14,000 individuals.

Interesting Facts

The red-cockaded woodpecker is an intriguing species with several distinctive qualities.

One of its most notable traits is its loud and unique call, which resembles the sound of a squeaky toy or a hiccup. This call serves as a communication tool within its group, alerting members to the presence of predators or intruders.

In addition to its distinctive call, this bird also communicates through rapid drumming that mimics the sound of a machine gun. This drumming serves as a beacon, signaling its location to group members and potential mates.

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Call:

Matt Wistrand, XC752671. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/752671.

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Drumming:

Mike Nelson, XC130987. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/130987.

The male and female woodpeckers partake in different roles when it comes to excavating cavities. While the male is responsible for creating the entrance hole and the resin wells, the female crafts the inner chamber where the eggs will be laid.

Remarkably, the red-cockaded woodpecker is the only woodpecker in North America that carves out cavities in living trees. The process of creating a cavity can span several years, but once completed, it can be utilized by the same group for generations.

Moreover, the red-cockaded woodpecker plays a crucial role in its ecosystem as a keystone species. By constructing cavities, it provides a valuable service to its environment, with as many as 27 other species documented using these cavities. These include various lizards, frogs, snakes, squirrels, and other bird species, further emphasizing this woodpecker’s ecological importance.

7. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

  • Species: Sphyrapicus varius
  • Body Length: 7.1″ – 8.7″
  • Wingspan: 13.4″ – 15.8″
  • Weight: 1.5 – 1.9 oz

If you are looking for a bird that is both colorful and quirky, you might want to check out the yellow-bellied sapsucker.

This small woodpecker is a winter visitor to Florida, where it drills neat rows of holes in tree bark to feed on the sap and insects. Here are some tips on how to identify and enjoy this fascinating bird.

Easy To Spot Characteristics

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is an intriguing bird species, characterized by its distinct coloration and migration patterns. It’s a species that has fascinated birdwatchers across North America due to its striking appearance and extensive migratory habits.

  • Notable for its black-and-white striped head, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker sports a vibrant red cap and throat (in males). The female, on the other hand, features a white throat and a black cap.
  • The bird’s back is adorned with black and white bars while its wings display black feathers dotted with white spots. Its belly boasts a pale yellow hue, and the tail is black, accentuated with white outer feathers.
  • Equipped for its sap-sucking lifestyle, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker possesses a chisel-shaped bill and a brush-tipped tongue designed to lap up the sap.
  • This bird is one of the most migratory woodpeckers and can be spotted across North America. It breeds in mixed forests in the north and west, and winters in deciduous woods in the south and east.

Where and When to Find Them

This bird can be spotted in various wooded areas, but it shows a significant preference for places abundant with aspen, poplar, birch, or willow trees. The high sugar content present in the sap of these trees makes them an ideal feeding ground for the sapsucker.

If you’re keen on observing this unique bird, winter is the best time to do so. From October to April, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is most commonly found in Florida. Furthermore, it can also be seen during its migration periods in spring and fall.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker Range Map:

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker Range Map:
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

As for its daily routine, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is predominantly active during the day. This is when it drills its sap wells and feeds on them.

However, it has been known to feed at night as well, especially during colder weather or when there is a full moon, making it a versatile and interesting creature to watch.

Behavior

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker boasts a diverse diet, extending beyond sap to include insects.

It has been observed gleaning insects from tree trunks and branches and occasionally catching them mid-air. Moreover, it feeds on berries and fruits throughout the year, showcasing its versatile feeding habits.

Interestingly, the sap wells created by the sapsucker serve as a food source for other animals. Hummingbirds, bats, butterflies, bees, and other birds are often attracted to these sap wells. Some of these creatures may even rely on the sapsucker’s sap wells for sustenance, particularly during winter.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is not overly timid and can tolerate human presence near its feeding sites. However, it might exhibit wariness and secretive behavior if disturbed by loud noises or predators.

Despite being generally harmless, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker can occasionally cause minor damage to trees by drilling holes into them. While this usually doesn’t impact the tree’s health, some individuals may view it as a pest and try to deter it from their orchards or gardens.

Interesting Facts

The yellow-bellied sapsucker, known for its distinctive call, is an intriguing creature.

This unique call can be likened to a cat’s meow or a squeaky toy. The bird also uses its ability to drum on trees or metal objects as a form of communication with other sapsuckers.

Moreover, this drumming serves as a way to mark its territory.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker Call:

Thomas Magarian, XC360986. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/360986.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker Drumming:

Manuel Oudard, XC839980. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/839980.

In terms of nesting, both the male and female sapsuckers play key roles. They work together in excavating their nest cavity, often choosing a dead or dying tree for this purpose.

Their cooperation extends to the care of their young, where they share responsibilities in incubation and feeding.

The behavior of the yellow-bellied sapsucker further demonstrates its adaptability. It has the ability to vary its sap well pattern based on the type of tree or the season.

For instance, it may drill horizontal rows in thin-barked trees or vertical rows in thick-barked trees. Additionally, the bird adjusts its activity based on seasonal changes, drilling more wells in the spring than in winter.

8. Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker
  • Species: Colaptes auratus
  • Body Length: 11″ – 12.2″
  • Wingspan: 16.5″ – 20.1″
  • Weight: 3.9 – 5.6 oz

If you are a bird lover in Florida, you have probably seen or heard the northern flicker. This large woodpecker is easy to spot and identify, thanks to its distinctive colors and sounds.

Easy To Spot Characteristics

The Northern Flicker is a remarkable bird species that’s easy to identify due to its unique characteristics.

This bird is known for its eye-catching color flashes and distinctive calls.

By recognizing these characteristics, you’ll be able to easily spot and appreciate the beauty of the Northern Flicker.

  • The bird measures about 12 inches long, dons a brownish-gray body, and has black bars on the back and wings.
  • It flaunts a striking flash of color under the wings and tail – yellow or red depending on the subspecies.
  • Yellow-Shafted Flicker: Commonly seen in Florida, this subspecies has yellow feathers under the wings and tail, a black mustache stripe on the face, and a red patch on the nape of the neck. Males also sport a black spot on each cheek.
  • Red-Shafted Flicker: Native to the western part of North America, this subspecies showcases red feathers under the wings and tail, lacks a mustache stripe or cheek spots, and has a gray face.
  • Northern Flickers are known for their loud and varied calls, including a “wicka-wicka-wicka” sound, a “kleer” whistle, and a “flick-a-flick-a-flick-a” rattle. They also communicate and attract mates by drumming on trees or metal surfaces.

Where And When To Find Them

The northern flicker can be found in a variety of habitats, from forests and woodlands to parks and gardens. They prefer open areas with some trees for nesting and roosting.

They are especially fond of dead or dying trees, where they excavate holes for nesting and feeding.

Northern Flicker Range Map:

Northern Flicker Range Map:
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

You can look for them in places like Myakka River State Park, Ocala National Forest, or Everglades National Park, where they are common year-round residents.

The best time to find them is during the daytime when they are active and vocal. They are not very migratory, but some may move southward in winter or northward in spring. They are also more likely to visit feeders in winter when their natural food sources are scarce.

Behavior

The northern flicker is an omnivorous bird that eats mainly ants and beetles, which it digs out of the ground with its long, curved bill. It also eats fruits, seeds, nuts, berries, and occasionally small animals like lizards or mice.

It will readily come to feeders that offer suet, sunflower seeds, or peanuts.

The northern flicker is a very adaptable bird that can live in human-altered environments. It often nests in birdhouses or nest boxes that are large enough to accommodate its size.

It may also use holes in buildings, utility poles, or fence posts. However, it may also cause damage to wooden structures by drilling holes or peeling off bark.

Interesting Facts

The Northern Flicker is known for its varied vocalization used for alarm, contact, courtship, and territorial defense.

Each subspecies or individual has unique calls.

For instance, the yellow-shafted flicker’s “kleer” whistle differs from the red-shafted flicker’s “klee-yer” whistle. Males have a special “long call” or “flicker song” to attract females during mating season.

Northern Flicker Call:

Manuel Oudard, XC839869. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/839869.

Northern Flicker Drumming:

Ron Overholtz, XC634286. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/634286.

Another fascinating aspect is their hybridization with other woodpeckers.

Yellow-shafted and red-shafted flickers interbreed where their ranges overlap, producing hybrids with mixed features called “gilded flickers” or “intergrades”.

The Northern Flicker also hybridizes with the gilded flicker species that resides in the southwestern United States and Mexico. These hybrids exhibit yellow feathers under the wings and tail, a red mustache stripe, and a brown face.

Special Mention: Ivory-billed Woodpecker

If you are a bird lover, you might have heard of the ivory-billed woodpecker, a majestic and elusive bird that was once widespread in the southern United States and Cuba.

Sadly, this bird is now considered extinct by most authorities, due to habitat loss and hunting.

However, some people still hold out hope that a few individuals might survive in some remote areas, especially in Florida, where the last confirmed sighting occurred in 2005 along the Choctawhatchee River.

Easy To Spot Characteristics

The ivory-billed woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in North America, measuring about 20″ in length and 30″ in wingspan. It has a striking black-and-white plumage, with a pale ivory bill and white patches on the wings and back. The male has a red crest, while the female has a black one.

Here are some key features to look for:

  • Male: red crest, black face and chin, white stripes on the sides of the head and neck, white saddle on the back, white patches on the wings
  • Female: black crest, black face and chin, white stripes on the sides of the head and neck, white saddle on the back, white patches on the wings

You might be familiar with the pileated woodpecker, which is similar in size and appearance to the ivory-billed woodpecker, but has some noticeable differences. The pileated woodpecker has a black bill, a red mustache stripe, and less white on the wings and back. It also has a different call and drumming pattern.

Where And When To Find Them

The ivory-billed woodpecker used to inhabit cypress swamps and mature bottomland forests, where it fed on beetle larvae under the bark of dead or dying trees. It also occasionally visited upland pine forests and human-influenced areas.

In Florida, it was found throughout the state, but especially in the northern regions along the Apalachicola and Choctawhatchee rivers.

The best time to look for this bird is early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when it is most active. It is also more likely to be seen during the breeding season, which runs from January to May. During this time, it excavates large nest cavities in live or dead trees, usually about 50 feet above the ground.

Behavior

The ivory-billed woodpecker is a shy and secretive bird that avoids human disturbance. It usually travels alone or in pairs, but sometimes forms small family groups.

It communicates with its mate or offspring by using a distinctive double-knock drumming sound or a nasal kent call.

Despite its preference for undisturbed habitats, the ivory-billed woodpecker has shown some adaptability to human-modified environments. For example, it has been reported to visit orchards, plantations, and even urban areas in search of food or nesting sites.

Some anecdotal evidence suggests that it might have benefited from logging activities that created more dead trees for foraging.

If you are lucky enough to encounter this bird, you should respect its space and avoid disturbing it.

You can contribute to the protection of its habitat by actively supporting conservation initiatives aimed at preserving old-growth forests and wetlands. Additionally, providing artificial nest boxes or feeders for other woodpecker species that occupy the same ecological niche can also be a valuable way to assist.

Interesting Facts

The ivory-billed woodpecker has a remarkable vocal repertoire that includes various calls, whistles, rattles, and screams.

Some of these sounds are used for territorial defense or courtship. The most distinctive sound is the kent call, which sounds like a toy trumpet or a tin horn.

The ivory-billed woodpecker also has some unique physical traits that help it survive in its habitat. For example, it has a long tongue that can probe deep into wood to extract insects.

It also has strong feet and claws that enable it to cling to vertical surfaces. And it has a reinforced skull and neck muscles that allow it to withstand powerful pecking.

How to Attract Woodpeckers To Your Backyard In Florida

Here are some helpful tips on how to attract woodpeckers to your backyard so you can observe these fascinating creatures up close.

1. Provide food sources. Woodpeckers mainly eat insects, especially wood-boring ones, that they find by pecking at trees and logs.

You can attract them by leaving some dead or dying trees or branches in your yard, or by installing a suet feeder that allows them to cling while eating. Suet is a high-fat food that provides energy and warmth for woodpeckers, especially in winter.

You can also offer them black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, corn, fruit, or nectar in other types of feeders. Make sure to place the feeders in a semi-sheltered location and keep them clean to avoid diseases and parasites.

2. Provide shelter and nesting sites. Woodpeckers need places to roost and nest, and they prefer natural cavities that they excavate themselves or use from other birds.

You can attract them by keeping some snags or dead trees in your yard, or by installing nesting boxes that are designed for woodpeckers.

The boxes should have a round entrance hole of about 2 inches in diameter, a floor space of about 6 by 6 inches, and a depth of about 12 inches. You can fill the boxes with wood chips to mimic their natural excavation process.

The boxes should be mounted on a tree trunk or a pole, at least 10 feet above the ground, and facing away from the prevailing winds.

3. Provide water sources. Woodpeckers need water for drinking and bathing, and they will appreciate a birdbath or a fountain that has fresh and clean water.

The water source should be shallow, no more than 2 inches deep, and have some rocks or branches for perching. You can also add a dripper or a mister to create some movement and noise that will attract woodpeckers.

The water source should be placed near some cover, such as shrubs or trees, to provide safety and shade.

4. Avoid using pesticides and chemicals. Woodpeckers are sensitive to pesticides and chemicals that can harm their health and reduce their food supply.

If you want to attract woodpeckers to your backyard, you should avoid using these products and opt for organic and natural methods instead. You can also plant native plants that attract insects and provide food and shelter for woodpeckers and other birds.

5. Be patient and respectful. Woodpeckers are shy and cautious birds that may take some time to visit your backyard.

You should be patient and observe their behavior and preferences.

You should also respect their space and privacy, and avoid disturbing them when they are feeding or nesting. Woodpeckers are protected by federal and state laws, so you should never harm them or their habitats.

How Woodpeckers Make Nest Cavities in Trees

Woodpeckers are amazing birds that can create their own nest holes in trees. They use their strong beaks to chisel out deep cavities in dead or decaying wood, where they lay their eggs and raise their young.

But how do they do it, and why?

Why do woodpeckers make nest cavities?

Woodpeckers make nest cavities for two main reasons: protection and insulation.

By nesting inside a tree, they can avoid predators, parasites, and bad weather. They can also regulate the temperature and humidity of their nest, which is important for the development of their eggs and chicks.

How do woodpeckers make nest cavities?

Woodpeckers make nest cavities by using their beaks as hammers and chisels. They start by selecting a suitable tree, usually one that is dead or dying, and has soft or rotten wood.

They then drill a hole in the trunk, and gradually enlarge it by removing wood chips with their tongues. They also use their feet to brace themselves against the tree, and their tails to balance themselves.

The process of making a nest cavity can take from a few days to several weeks, depending on the species and the condition of the wood.

Woodpeckers usually work on their nests in the morning, when they have more energy and the wood is softer.

What do woodpecker nest cavities look like?

Woodpecker nest cavities vary in size and shape, depending on the species and the tree.

The entrance hole is usually round or oval and has smooth edges. The cavity itself is deeper than it is wide and can be up to 30″ deep. The inside of the cavity is bare, except for some wood chips that serve as bedding.

Some woodpecker species, such as the pileated woodpecker, may have multiple entrances to their nest cavity. This may help them escape from predators or intruders, or allow them to access different parts of the cavity.

How do woodpecker nest cavities differ between species?

Different woodpecker species have different preferences and requirements for their nest cavities.

For example:

  • The downy woodpecker, the smallest woodpecker in North America, makes a cavity that descends about a foot from the entrance.
  • The pileated woodpecker, the largest woodpecker in North America, makes a cavity that may be two feet deep. It also prefers large mature trees, such as pine, fir, or larch.
  • The red-headed woodpecker, unlike most other woodpeckers, may reuse an old cavity made by another bird or animal. It also likes to nest in open areas, such as fields or orchards.

Woodpeckers Nest Cavity Sizes

Understanding the size of woodpecker nesting cavities can help you identify the woodpecker species without even seeing the bird itself.

The size of the cavity is usually at least the length of the woodpecker’s body.

For a larger woodpecker, like the pileated woodpecker, a cavity nest can be up to two feet deep. The chamber of a tiny Downy Woodpecker descends about a foot from the opening, while the Pileated Woodpecker may chip out a chamber two feet deep.

To identify the woodpecker species, you can look for the following characteristics of the nest cavities.

  • Pileated woodpecker: Nest cavities have a diameter of about 5 inches and are up to 30″ deep. Entrances can be circular or slightly oval (tear drop shaped).
  • Downy woodpecker: Nest cavities are small. The entrance hole is about 1″ – 1.5″ across and 6″ – 12″ deep.
  • Red-headed woodpecker: Nest cavities are usually in dead trees or limbs, often in the upper part of the tree. The entrance hole is about 2″ across and the cavity is 8″ – 16″ deep.
  • Northern flicker: Nest cavities are usually in dead trees or limbs, often in the upper part of the tree. The entrance hole is about 3″ in diameter and the cavity is 13″ – 16″ deep.
  • Red-bellied woodpecker: Nest cavities are usually in dead trees or limbs, often in the upper part of the tree. The entrance hole is about 2.5″ in diameter.
  • Hairy woodpecker: Nest cavities are about 1.5″ – 2.5″ in diameter and 6″-12″ deep.
  • Yellow-bellied sapsucker: Nest cavities are about 1″ – 2″ in diameter and can be up to 20″ deep. The entrance hole is usually oblong or rectangular.
  • Red-cockaded woodpecker: Nest cavities are usually in living pine trees, often at least 80 years old. The entrance hole is about 1″ – 1.5″ in diameter and the cavity is about 10″ deep.

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