From St. Louis to Kansas City, and Springfield to Branson, Missouri has a lot to offer. On top of the marvelous restaurants, museums, and parks, Missouri is an excellent state to watch for birds. With endless different wilderness areas, you can spot over 400 species, including seven species of woodpeckers.
Most woodpeckers in Missouri are happy to come and visit your backyard if you place a suet feeder out for them. But you can also head to places like Squaw Creek or Swan Lake wildlife refuges. The Eagle Bluffs, Taberville Prairie, or Schell-Osage conservation areas are also prime spots to watch for birds.
All of the species of woodpeckers in Missouri live there year-round instead of migrating, which means you can spot them even during the humdrum winter months.
Here is the list of species of woodpeckers in Missouri:
- Pileated Woodpecker
- Downy Woodpecker
- Red-Headed Woodpecker
- Hairy Woodpecker
- Northern Flicker
- Red-Bellied Woodpecker
- Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
7 Types of Woodpeckers in Missouri
1. Pileated Woodpecker
Scientific name: Dryocopus pileatus
Size: 16-19 inches
Weight: 9-14 ounces
Wingspan: 30 inches
The pileated woodpecker lives in Missouri year-round. They often make their nests in utility poles or high up in the deadwood of tall trees. Their favorite snack 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 striking 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 woodpeckers in Missouri.
The pileated woodpecker doesn’t migrate. It stays in the same area for its entire life. They will, however, move their nest if the eggs fall out of it.
The cartoon bird Woody Woodpecker was probably based on this species.
2. 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 Missouri (and the rest of the US) and is extremely common across North America. But that doesn’t mean it’s hard to spot. It’s probably the most common woodpecker in all of Missouri.
It doesn’t migrate but instead stays in its home year-round, which means you can spot these woodpeckers even during the harsh winters in Missouri.
You can find this itty-bitty woodpecker pretty much anywhere. It lives in rural areas, cities, suburban yards, and wilderness areas. It doesn’t mind the desert or a nice wooded area.
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.
If you love the idea of watching the behavior of these tiny woodpeckers in Missouri, hang a suet feeder in your yard. They are frequent visitors.
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.
3. 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 striking 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 of the Rocky Mountains, but they can be found in all parts east, from Canada to Florida. These woodpeckers live year-round in Missouri. 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. That’s uncommon behavior for woodpeckers and makes for an interesting show if you can catch it.
4. 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 you can tell them apart because hairy woodpeckers are bigger and have a longer bill. In fact, their bills are almost the same length as their head.
They’re black and white all over. You can tell the genders apart because the adult males have a little red spot on the back of their heads.
These pretty woodpeckers aren’t as common in Missouri 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 burned recently.
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.
5. 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 Missouri. 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 Missouri, but they don’t all look the same.
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 woodpeckers in Missouri.
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 long distances. It’s a distinct 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 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 Alaska and Canada will migrate to areas with warmer temperatures during the winter, but these woodpeckers stick around Missouri all year round.
Studies show that Northern Flickers can lose their nests to invaders like European starlings.
6. 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, 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 are usually covered by white feathers so you can’t see them.
These active woodpeckers live all across the eastern United States, including Missouri, 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.
7. 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 lives in the eastern half of the US and heads to the southern part of the country in the winter, but it will stay in states like Missouri all year-round.
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 to their bellies, but it can be so indistinct that you might not be able to identify it.
The birds drill little holes with their beaks and then they wait for the sweet sap to emerge from the tree. They lick this up, along with 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.
Also Read: Woodpeckers in Indiana