Georgia is packed with perfect areas to watch for woodpeckers. From the suburban backyards of Atlanta to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, you can find these unique birds making their nests, feeding, raising their young, and visiting suet feeders across the state.
You don’t have to wait for a certain time of year to watch woodpeckers in Georgia, either. They’re present all year round, from the coasts to the interior.
There are eight species of woodpeckers that are fairly easy to spot in the state, plus one that is thought to possibly be extinct, though experts hold out hope that a few might still be hiding in rural areas of Georgia.
Pull out your binoculars, get your life list handy, and let’s go woodpecker-watching.
Here is the list of species of woodpeckers in Georgia:
- Red-Headed Woodpecker
- Red-Cockaded Woodpecker
- Red-Bellied Woodpecker
- Northern Flicker
- Pileated Woodpecker
- Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
- Downy Woodpecker
- Hairy Woodpecker
- Ivory-Billed Woodpecker
8 Types of Woodpeckers in Georgia
1. 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 pretty birds. 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 to the west side of the Rocky Mountains, but they can be found in all parts east, from Canada to Florida. These woodpeckers live year-round in Georgia. You can entice them to your yard during the winter by offering them some citrus or suet.
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 as they fly. That’s uncommon behavior for woodpeckers.
2. Red-cockaded Woodpecker
Scientific name: Dryobates borealis
Size: 7.9-9.1 inches
Weight: 1.5-1.8 ounces
Wingspan: 14.2 inches
This non-migratory species lives year-round in its habitat, which includes the southeast parts of the US. It lives in the southern and central parts of Georgia but it doesn’t make its home in the northern part of the state. It might visit from time to time, though.
You might expect this bird to have a dramatic red mark, given its name. Only the males have any red on them, 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 their 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.
3. Red-bellied Woodpecker
Scientific name: Melanerpes carolinus
Size: 9.5 inches
Weight: 2.0-3.2 ounces
Wingspan: 13.0-16.5 inches
You’d probably expect these woodpeckers to have bright red bellies given their name, but that’s not the case. Their bellies are typically pale, 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 actually have red feathers on their bellies, but they’re covered by white feathers, so you can’t see them.
These active woodpeckers live all across the eastern United States, including Georgia, and you can spot them in the air as they fly by their undulating flight pattern.
Look for them in oak and hickory trees, where they like to feed and nest. They’ll also visit suet feeders.
4. Northern Flicker
Scientific name: Colaptes auratus
Size: 11-12 inches
Weight: 4-6.5 ounces
Wingspan: 16.5-20 inches
The distinctive northern flicker woodpecker lives in open habitats near trees, as well as in parks and cemeteries across Georgia. They are a frequent visitor to suet feeders in suburban and urban yards. Unlike some woodpeckers, they like to hunt around on the ground rather than in the trees.
They’re one of the most common woodpeckers in Georgia, but they don’t all look the same, which can make identifying them a challenge.
The males, females, and juveniles vary in appearance depending on where they live. They’re 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. These are the second-largest known woodpeckers in Georgia.
Some have a red or black stripe on their cheeks, and many of them have large, black crescents on their chest. 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 off. They have an extremely distinct call, and once you know what it sounds like, it’s easy to tell when they’re nearby.
They primarily eat ants, but they’ll also dine on other insects such as caterpillars, beetles, and termites. They’re definitely a bird you want to have around! There are also instances of them catching young bats as they leave the nest. You can tempt them to visit your home by offering a suet feeder in the yard.
Flickers who live in northern climates like Alaska and Canada will migrate to places with warmer temperatures during the winter, but these woodpeckers stick around Georgia all year round.
Studies show that Northern Flickers can lose their nests to invaders like European starlings.
5. Pileated Woodpecker
Scientific name: Dryocopus pileatus
Size: 16-19 inches
Weight: 9-14 ounces
Wingspan: 30 inches
The pileated woodpecker lives in Georgia year-round. They often make their nests in utility poles or high up in the deadwood of tall trees. Their favorite meal is carpenter ants, which they will dig rectangular holes deep into the wood to find.
They’ll also eat nuts and berries and will even dine on poison ivy berries. You may occasionally see them foraging on the ground for food, but they usually stick to the trees.
These distinctive birds are mostly 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 large birds, about the same size as a crow, and are the largest known woodpeckers in Georgia.
The pileated woodpecker doesn’t migrate. It stays in the same area for its entire life. They will, however, move their nest to someplace nearby if the eggs fall out of it.
The cartoon bird Woody Woodpecker was probably based on this species.
6. 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 yellow-bellied sapsucker lives in the eastern half of the US and heads to the southern part of the country in the winter, and they stay in Georgia during the nonbreeding season.
These birds are mostly 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 throat of the male 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 on bellies, but it can be so indistinct that you might not be able to identify it unless you look really close.
These sapsuckers drill tiny holes with their beaks, and then they wait for the sweet sap to leak from the tree. They lick this up, along with any insects that crawl along and get stuck in the sap.
You might see them hanging out at your backyard suet feeder, but they mostly stick to forested areas. They aren’t nearly as bold as some of their woodpecker cousins.
7. Downy Woodpecker
Scientific name: Dryobates pubescens
Size: 7 inches long
Weight: 0.75-0.99 ounces
Wingspan: 10-12 inches
The downy woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker in Georgia and much of the rest of the US. But its tiny size doesn’t make it difficult to spot. That’s because it’s bold and not too afraid of people. It’s probably the most common woodpecker to see in all of Georgia, so the chances are good that you’ll be able to check one out.
This cute little bird doesn’t migrate. Instead, it stays in its home year-round, which means you can spot these woodpeckers anytime you head outside.
You can find this itty-bitty bird pretty much anywhere. It lives in rural areas, cities, suburban yards, and wilderness areas.
During the wintertime, they flock with other birds such as chickadees and nuthatches for safety and to find food. They build their nests in the cavity of trees where they live and raise their young. While they may change their habitat range during the seasons, they don’t travel too far.
Downy woodpeckers are black and white, with distinctly spotted wings and a white chest. Adult males have a bright red cap on the back of their heads, which makes them easy to identify from females.
Hang a suet feeder in your yard if you want to be able to see these birds. They’re the most frequent visitor of suet feeders of all the different woodpeckers in Georgia.
Because of their small size, they can land on small stems of plants to hunt for food. They’re also small enough that they often make nests in the wood siding of homes, much to the dismay of homeowners.
8. Hairy Woodpecker
Scientific name: Picoides villosus
Size: 7.5 inches
Weight: 1.4-3.4 ounces
Wingspan: 13-16 inches
Hairy woodpeckers look a lot like downy woodpeckers, but they’re easy to tell apart because Hairy woodpeckers are much larger. They also have longer bills, which are almost the same length as their head.
They’re black and white, and you can tell the genders from one another because the adult males have a little red spot on the back of their heads.
These pretty woodpeckers aren’t as common in Georgia as their cousin, the downy woodpecker. However, you can still see these woodpeckers in parks, suburban areas, cemeteries, and other quiet wooded or open areas. They also visit suet feeders in suburban backyards.
Like their cousin, the downy woodpecker, hairy woodpeckers don’t migrate during the cold weather and stay in the same place all year. They make their homes in the cavities of dead trees.
Research published in The Journal of Wildlife Management found that they prefer forests that have been recently burned because there is abundant food for them there.
Populations have been declining in the past few decades because they’re losing their habitat. They also face pressure from invasive birds like European starlings, which steal their nesting spots.
9. 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 find 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 have a red crest, while the females have a black one. 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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