Anytime you take a walk in the woods, you’re sure to hear the sound of woodpeckers foraging for food or communicating with other woodpeckers. There are eight species of woodpecker you can find in Georgia. Seven species are full-time residents while one is a “snow-bird” that winters here.

Did you know?

  • Woodpeckers have stiffened tail feathers that help them stay “upright” while feeding on insects in tree bark.
  • The sound a woodpecker makes when rapidly pecking on a tree is called “drumming”
  • Woody Woodpecker was inspired by the Acorn Woodpecker found in the western United States and Central America. However, the Pileated Woodpecker heavily influenced Woody’s looks!

 

Here’s what to look for when trying to identify woodpeckers in Georgia:

Downy Woodpecker

  • Smallest woodpecker in North America (about 6.25 inches long)
  • Black and white body and wings with black cap and broad black and white stripes along the side of the head
  • Males have a red patch on the back of the head
  • Found in many types of habitats but prefers to nest in deciduous (hardwood) trees
  • Commonly seen on backyard feeders

Hairy Woodpecker 

  • Medium-sized woodpecker (about 9.25 inches long)
  • Looks very similar to the Downy Woodpecker, but larger and much less common in Georgia
  • Bill significantly larger proportional to the head compared to the downy
  • Males have a red patch on the back of the head
  • Prefers forested areas with larger trees

 

Northern Flicker

  • Medium-sized woodpecker
  • Tannish-brown with grey cap, black patch on chest; males have black malar “mustache” stripe
  • Cream belly with dark spots and black bars on wings
  • Yellow undersides of wing and tail feathers
  • Eat mostly ants but will also eat other insects
  • There are two color variations: the Yellow-shafted found in the East and the Red-shafted found in the West
Northen Flicker.Phillip Jordan
Male Northern Flicker (Photo Credit: Phillip Jordan)

 

Pileated Woodpecker

  • Largest woodpecker in North America
  • Bright red, pointed crest on top of head
  • Males have a red “mustache” stripe on the side of the face
  • Nest cavities provide habitat for owls, bats, ducks, and other species
  • Found in all forest types with large dead trees that are still standing (snags)
  • Very similar to the extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker

 

Red-bellied Woodpecker 

  • Medium-sized woodpecker
  • Red cap that extends from the bridge of the bill to the bottom of the neck on males and back of head to bottom of neck on females
  • Light gray face, throat, breast, belly, and abdomen usually with red to orangish patch on belly
  • Barred black and white wings and back
  • Found in all forest types and occasionally use backyard bird feeders
Red-bellied Woodpecker5A.Todd Schneider
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Photo Credit: Todd Schneider)

 

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

  • Small woodpecker
  • Currently listed as endangered due to habitat loss
  • Found exclusively in the Southeast
  • Prefers large stands of old pine trees that are 80+ years old with few or no trees in the mid-story
  • Only species of woodpecker that lives exclusively in live (pine) trees; heart rot fungus in old trees softens wood enough for this small bird to excavate cavities
  • Live in family groups with young males from previous year assisting with raising young
  • “Cockaded” comes from the small ribbon (cockade) of red feathers found on the side of the head of males; the cockade is normally not visible
Red-cockaded Woodpecker1.Phillip Jordan
Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Photo Credit: Phillip Jordan)

 

Red-headed Woodpecker

  • Medium-sized woodpecker
  • Solid crimson colored hood on the head
  • Black backs with large white wing patches
  • Cache extra food in tree bark and crevices
  • Prefer living along forest edges and in open forests

 

Red-headed Woodpecker.Phillip Jordan
Red-headed Woodpecker (Photo Credit: Phillip Jordan)

 

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

  • Small woodpecker
  • Crimson head cap with large black and white stripes on the face and side of head; females have white throat patch, while males have a red throat patch
  • Black bib on upper chest; yellowish hue on lower chest and belly
  • Mottled black and white wings
  • Drills rows of shallow holes in tree bark to extract sap for food
  • Only found in Georgia during migration and winter months
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker9(male).Todd Schneider
Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker ((Photo Credit: Todd Schneider)