Florida is a large state with habitats that range from murky bayous to pristine beaches. It’s packed with areas that are absolutely perfect for bird watching, including the famous Everglades National Park, the Florida Keys, the Dry Tortugas, and Ocala National Forest.
On top of that, there are many states, counties, and city parks that are teeming with woodpeckers.
Bird lovers can reliably spot nine different species of woodpeckers in Florida, plus one species that is nearly impossible to find since it is on the verge of being declared extinct. But isn’t part of the fun of bird watching trying to spot those elusive species that top ornithologists’ bucket list?
Here is the list of species of woodpeckers in Florida:
- Red-cockaded Woodpecker
- Golden-fronted Woodpecker
- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
- Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Red-headed Woodpecker
- Downy Woodpecker
- Hairy Woodpecker
- Pileated Woodpecker
- Northern Flicker
- Ivory-billed Woodpecker
10 Types of Woodpeckers in Florida
1. Red-cockaded Woodpecker
Scientific name: Dryobates borealis
Size: 7.9-9.1 inches
Weight: 1.5-1.8 ounces
Wingspan: 14.2 inches
You might expect this bird to have a dramatic red mark, given its name. In actuality, only the males have any red at all, and it’s a tiny little stripe on its cheek. Don’t try to identify this bird by the little streak, however. It’s pretty much impossible to see unless you’re right up close.
The rest of the bird is black and white with barred stripes on the wings and a mottled pattern on the chest. The head is white with a black crown and stripes down the cheeks that extend down the neck. The males and females look very similar.
This bird has been losing its habitat due to logging and suburban spread and is on the conservation red watch list; and has been endangered since 1970. It lives in old-growth, long-leaf pine forests, so it’s unlikely that you’ll see this in your backyard.
If you go out hunting to spot this bird, be aware that many of its habitats are protected and closed to public access. Bird watchers may, however, be able to obtain permission to search for them.
2. Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Scientific name: Melanerpes aurifrons
Weight: 2.6-3.5 ounces
Wingspan: 16.5-17.3 inches
This woodpecker is quite striking, with a bold yellow nape and a bright yellow spot on the lower part of the abdomen. Males also have a bright red crown and a patch of gold on the forehead, as well. Overall, both species have a faint yellow hue, making them almost appear as if they’re glowing. Their main body is pale gray, and the wings are barred black and white.
These birds live in brushlands, tropical forests, and wooded habitats, but you might occasionally spot them in suburban yards and parks, especially if there is suet available to them.
You might hear these birds before you see them. They have a loud call, and they are quite vocal in the morning, especially during the spring. They also aren’t afraid of humans, so if they live in your area, they aren’t hard to spot.
These birds primarily live in Oklahoma and Texas, but they might occasionally visit neighboring states and have even been spotted as far east as Florida.
3. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Scientific name: Sphyrapicus varius
Size: 7.1-8.7 inches
Weight: 1.5-1.9 ounces
Wingspan: 13.4-15.8 inches
The beautiful yellow-bellied sapsucker is primarily black and white, with white bellies and black and white barred wings and back. You can tell the difference between males and females because the male’s throat is bright red. Females, on the other hand, have a white throat. Both the females and males have red foreheads.
The females have a faint yellow coloring to their bellies, but it can be so indistinct that you might not be able to identify it by the coloring there.
The birds drill little holes into the trees with their beaks, and then they wait for the sweet sap to emerge. Then, they lick this up, as well as any insects that crawl along and get themselves stuck in the sap.
You might see them hanging out at your backyard suet feeder, but they mostly stick to forested areas.
4. Red-bellied Woodpecker
Scientific name: Melanerpes carolinus
Size: 9.5 inches
Weight: 2.0-3.2 ounces
Wingspan: 13.0-16.5 inches
No doubt you expect these woodpeckers to have bright red bellies, but that’s not the case. Typically, their bellies are actually creamy white. Their back and wing feathers are black and white striped, and the females have a red nape. The males have a red nape and crown.
So, where did the name “red-bellied” come from? The woodpeckers do actually have red feathers on their bellies, but white feathers usually cover them, so you can’t see them. But they’re there.
These active birds live all across the Eastern United States including Florida, and you can spot them in the air as they fly by their undulating flight pattern.
Otherwise, look for them in oak and hickory trees, where they like to feed and nest. They’ll also pop up at suet feeders now and then.
5. Red-headed Woodpecker
Scientific name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus
Size: 7.5-9.1 inches
Weight: 2.0-3.2 ounces
Wingspan: 16.5 inches
Red-headed woodpeckers are incredibly striking. You’ll know it if you see them. They have solid black wings with a big white patch and white bodies. To top it off, a deep, dark red head and neck that is so vibrant it looks like velvet.
The juveniles are brownish-black with white spots on the wings and dull red cheeks.
They don’t cross west over the Rocky Mountains, but they can be found in all parts east, from Canada to Florida. They winter in Texas and northern Mexico and breed in the northern end of the US and southern Canada.
It’s one of the few woodpeckers out there who like to store food for the winter. They stuff seeds and nuts in bark or holes in trees. They have even been known to stuff food under shingles.
They also hunt their prey, snatching insects out of the air, which is another rare behavior for woodpeckers.
6. Downy Woodpecker
Scientific name: Dryobates pubescens
Size: 7 inches long
Weight: 0.75-0.99 ounces
Wingspan: 10-12 inches
The smallest woodpecker species in the US, the downy woodpecker lives across Florida year-round.
You can find this tiny woodpecker all over the place, including rural areas, the plains, cities, and suburban yards. In the winter, they hang out in groups with nuthatches and chickadees. They don’t migrate, but they might move their home around slightly during the winter. Like many woodpeckers in Florida, these birds build their nests in the cavity of trees.
These small woodpeckers are black and white, with distinctly spotted wings and a white breast. Adult males have a bright red cap on the back of their heads, which, coupled with their size, makes them relatively easy to identify.
If you love the idea of watching the behavior of these common woodpeckers in Florida, hang a suet feeder in your yard. They love them and won’t hesitate to come hang out for a bit so that you can watch them.
Because of their tiny size, they can access parts of the tree or land on small stems of plants to hunt for food. They’re even small enough to often make nests in the wood siding of homes.
7. Hairy Woodpecker
Scientific name: Picoides villosus
Size: 7.5 inches
Weight: 1.4-3.4 ounces
Wingspan: 13-16 inches
Hairy woodpeckers are sometimes confused with downy woodpeckers, but you can tell the difference between the two because hairy woodpeckers are bigger.
They have a long bill that is nearly the same length as their head, which further sets them apart from downy woodpeckers. Their bodies are black and white, and you can tell the genders apart because the adult males have a little red spot on the back of their heads.
These pretty birds aren’t as common in cities as downy woodpeckers, but you can still see them in cemeteries, parks, suburban neighborhoods, and other quiet wooded or open areas. They will also visit suet feeders.
Hairy woodpeckers don’t migrate. They stay in the same region all year round. They make their nests in the cavities of dead trees. Research published in The Journal of Wildlife Management found that they prefer forests that have recently burned.
Populations have been declining in recent years because they’re losing their habitat, but they also face pressure from invasive birds like European starlings, which take over their nests.
8. Pileated Woodpecker
Scientific name: Dryocopus pileatus
Size: 16-19 inches
Weight: 9-14 ounces
Wingspan: 30 inches
The pileated woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in Florida and only lives in the northern part of Florida in forested areas. They often make their nests in utility poles or high up in tall trees in deadwood. Their favorite snack is carpenter ants, which they will dig rectangular holes deep into the wood to find.
They’ll also eat berries and nuts and have even been known to consume poison ivy berries. You may see them foraging on the ground now and then for food, but they usually stick to the trees.
These striking woodpeckers are primarily black and white, but they stand out because of their bright red crest. The males also have a red stripe on the side of their faces. These are larger birds, about the same size as a crow.
The pileated woodpecker doesn’t migrate. It stays in the same area year after year. They will, however, move their nest if the eggs fall out of it or if they’re disturbed.
The cartoon bird Woody Woodpecker is thought to have been based on this species.
9. Northern Flicker
Scientific name: Colaptes auratus
Size: 11-12 inches
Weight: 4-6.5 ounces
Wingspan: 16.5-20 inches
The beautiful northern flicker lives in open habitats near trees and in parks and cemeteries. They are a frequent visitor to suet feeders in suburban and urban yards. Unlike some woodpeckers in Florida, they like to hunt around on the ground rather than in the trees.
The males, females, and juveniles differ in appearance from one another. They are brown in color overall, with black spots. The underside of the wings and tails are yellow in the eastern half of the US and red in the western half of the US.
Depending on where you live, the birds are somewhat different in appearance. Some have a red or black stripe on their cheeks, and many of them have large, black crescents on their chest, as well. Others have red marks on the back of the head. Some have a slightly gray head.
In the spring, you can hear the calls of Northern flickers for a long way. It’s a familiar sound, and once you know how to identify their calls and drumming, it’s easy to tell when they’re around.
They primarily eat ants, but they’ll also dine on insects such as caterpillars, beetles, and termites. There are even reports that they’ll catch young bats as they leave the nest. You can entice them to visit your home by offering a suet feeder in the yard.
Flickers who live in Alaska and Canada will migrate to areas that have higher temperatures in the south during the winter.
Studies show that Northern Flickers can lose their nests to invaders like European starlings.
10. Ivory-billed Woodpecker
Scientific name: Campephilus principalis
Size: 18.1-20.1 inches
Weight: 15.9-20.1 ounces
Wingspan: 29.9-31.5 inches
The ivory-billed woodpecker is huge. It’s the largest North American species, in fact. This woodpecker lives across the southern US from Florida to Texas in areas where flooding and fires have made it easier for them to chomp down on their favorite food: beetle larvae.
Unfortunately, deforestation caused their populations to drop dramatically during the 19th century. As of the mid-1900s, there were only a few left. But in 2004, they were spotted in Arkansas, renewing hope that they might still be around.
Keep an eye out for this bird. It has a long, straight, ivory-colored bill and is black and white. The males and females differ in that the crest on the male birds is red. Females, on the other hand, sport a deep black crest. They both have white streaks that extend down the back.
If you do happen to spot this bird, be sure to let your local government know. Tim Gallagher, who spotted the bird in 2004, argues in an article for Audubon that while some government experts want to declare the bird extinct, there is compelling evidence that they still exist in the swamps and bayous of the south.
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