Woodpeckers of Ohio (7 Species to Know)

Woodpeckers are unique birds that specialize in using their bills to bore holes in wood for the purpose of finding insects and other invertebrates to eat. There are many different species of woodpeckers that live in North America and seven species that can be found in the state of Ohio. Here is everything you need to know about these seven species.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker
Identification

Downy Woodpeckers are among the most recognizable woodpecker species in the United States due to their propensity for visiting bird feeders and widespread range. They are on the small side for a woodpecker, have a white underside, a white back, and black wings with checkered white mixed in. Downy Woodpeckers have a white head with black stripe on the top of the head, through the eye, and along what can best be described as the jawline. Males have a noticeable red spot on the back of their head that females lack. It’s also worth noting that the bill of the Downy Woodpecker is relatively small compared to the similar looking Hairy Woodpecker.

Range

Downy Woodpeckers do not migrate and live year round throughout most of the continental United States and Southern Canada. Their range even stretches as far as Southern Alaska but it does not extend into the Southeastern US or Mexico.

Diet and Foraging Habits

downy Woodpeckers feed primarily on insects and other invertebrates that they find inside of trees and underneath bark. They also occasionally eat berries and seeds,

Where to Find This Bird

Downy Woodpeckers can typically be found in deciduous forests as well as in more urban areas such as backyards and parks. This species comes to bird feeding stations regularly where they will eat suet as well as black oil sunflower seeds.

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker
Identification

Hairy Woodpeckers are medium sized birds with a white underside, black wings, and a black tail. Male Hairy Woodpeckers have a red marking on the back of their black and white striped head. while females lack this red coloration. Hairy Woodpeckers have a longer bill than the comparable Downy Woodpecker which is helpful to note when distinguishing between the two.

Range

Hairy Woodpeckers are nonmigratory and live throughout much of North America including most of Canada and even parts of Mexico. There are some isolated areas where the normal range of the Hairy Woodpecker does not extend to such as parts of Oregon, Washington, and Southern Texas.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Hairy Woodpeckers are primarily insect eaters. They are especially fond of wood-boring insects and will congregate in areas where trees have recently been burned as more wood-boring insects are often present in these areas.

Where to Find This Bird

Hairy Woodpeckers can be found pretty much anywhere there are large trees. Deciduous and coniferous woods, backyards, edge habitats, and even swamps are all areas that can play host to this species. Hairy Woodpeckers will also visit backyards where they will feed on suet.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) – Photo by Alan Schmierer
Identification

Northern Flickers come in two different varieties, the Yellow-shafted and the Red-shafted. Both subspecies have a lighter underside, darker wings, and large black spots. Male Yellow-shafted Flickers have a black “whisker” marking by the bill, gray on the top of their head and a red patch on the head as well. Male Red-shafted Flickers have a red whisker marking. Females of both of these subspecies lack any whisker marking.

One of the biggest differences between these two subspecies is the tail and wing feathers. Yellow-shafted Flickers show yellow on these feathers while Red-shafted Flickers show an orangey red color. These color differences are incredibly noticeable in flight.

Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) – Photo by Susan Young
Range

Northern Flickers are year-round residents of much of the continental United States, parts of Mexico, and some countries in Central America. Many of these birds migrate north in spring and spread into Canada to breed. Their numbers are at their highest in the continental United States in spring.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Northern Flickers eat many different species of insects as well as fruits, seeds, and nuts. These birds forage differently than other woodpeckers species as they spend a lot of time on the ground in addition to searching for insects up in trees. Another interesting thing about Northern Flickers is that they are particularly known for eating ants.

Where to Find This Bird

Northern Flickers can be found in pretty much any area with trees. Forest edges, deciduous woods, parks, and backyards are all places Northern Flickers frequent. Keep an eye out for flashes of yellow or red (depending on the subspecies) visible in flight.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker
Identification

Pileated Woodpeckers are absolutely massive birds that are somewhat shocking to see as they fly through. They have a black back and underside with a bright red head crest. Both males and females have black stripes from their neck and through their eye. Males have red behind their bill whereas females just have black.

Range

Pileated Woodpeckers live year round in most of the Eastern United States. They also inhabit Southern Canada and some parts of the western Coast of the United States. In the West, California, Oregon, and Washington among other states that play host to these impressive birds.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Pileated Woodpeckers eat a variety of different insects, but they specialize in eating ants. In particular, carpenter ants make up quite a large portion of this birds diet.

Where to Find This Bird

Pileated Woodpeckers can be found in old growth forests with plenty of large trees. They live in deciduous and mixed coniferous woods. Listen for the laughing call of these birds that can be heard from miles away.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Identification

Red-bellied Woodpeckers have a tannish gray face and underside, black and white striped back, and red on the head. Males have more red on the head than females do. The name Red-bellied Woodpecker comes from a small bit of red that can sometimes be seen on the underside of the bird but is not always visible.

Range

Red-bellied Woodpeckers can be found throughout most of the Eastern United States year-round. Their range expands slightly west of the Mississippi River but dos not typically extend north into Canada or south into Mexico.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Red-bellied Woodpeckers eat a wide variety of food items including insects, fruits, seeds, and small animals. They have been known to visit bird feeders where they will take seeds, nuts, and pieces of suet.

Where to Find This Bird

Red-bellied Woodpeckers can be found pretty much anywhere with large trees including deciduous forests, swamps, backyards, and parks.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker – Photo by Bill Grossmeyer
Identification

The extremely aptly named Red-headed Woodpecker can be identified by its white underside, black back, white “backpack” markings on the wings, and of course, its bright red head. Juveniles look similar but with a dark colored head.

Range

Red-headed Woodpeckers are birds of the Eastern United States. They can be found year-round from Florida and Mississippi all the way up through Southern Michigan and New York. In winter, this species moves slightly farther southwest in Texas and in summer they move northwest to the Dakotas and even into south-central Canada and further north in the Midwest and northeast.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Red-headed Woodpeckers eat a wide variety of different food items including insects, fruit, and seeds. They are among the most actively foraging woodpecker species and are known to catch insects out of the air.

Where to Find This Bird

Red-headed Woodpeckers reside in deciduous woods as well as more open areas with more sparse tree cover such as areas that have recently been burned. Forest edges are also another great place to find this species.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Photo by Bill Grossmeyer
Identification

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are quite dapper birds with black wings, and black stripes on their white faces. They also have a large white marking on each of their wings, black and white blurring on the back, and some barring on their flanks. This species also has some splashes of color as well, including a namesake pale yellow on their chest, and a red crown. Males also have a red throat which differentiates them from the females.

Range

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are migratory and spend the winter from the Southeastern United States all the way through Mexico and Central America. In Spring, these woodpeckers move north and occupy the Northeastern United States and Southern Canada. It’s worth noting that while not indicated by range maps, some individuals have been known to spend the winter fairly far north in the Eastern US.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers eat insects, fruit, and as their name suggests, sap. They eat tree sap by drilling holes in the trees and then eating the sap that fills them, They will usually make these holes in rows that look something like a grid. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are particularly fond of trees with high sugar contents in the sap such as certain types of birches and maples.

Where to Find This Bird

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers can be found in forested areas and edge habitats. They spend a lot of time attending to and drilling their sap wells, so areas that have been tapped before by these birds will most likely be revisited again.

Summary

Woodpeckers are indeed interesting birds with unique habits but a general look that spans across the different birds that make up the group. Knowing the specific details of how to identify them and what habitats to find them in can be of great help while out in the field.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding Youtube Channel.

One thought on “Woodpeckers of Ohio (7 Species to Know)”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s