Nebraska is home to half a dozen woodpeckers, but you can actually find up to 13 species in the state. It’s an excellent place if you’re hoping to fill out your birdwatching Life List.
While species like Downy and Hairy woodpeckers live there year-round and will hang out at backyard suet feeders, Acorn and Williamson’s woodpeckers require a watchful eye and a lot of patience.
If you’re eager to find some of the more rare species, head out to Soldier Creek Wilderness. You can often find many different varieties there.
But don’t worry, if you want to stick around in your Nebraska City neighborhood, there are plenty of woodpeckers that you can find.
Here is the list of species of woodpeckers in Nebraska:
- Downy Woodpecker
- Lewis’s Woodpecker
- Hairy Woodpecker
- American Three-toed Woodpecker
- Northern Flicker
- Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
- Williamson’s Sapsucker
- Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Red-Headed Woodpecker
- Pileated Woodpecker
- Acorn Woodpecker
- Red-cockaded Woodpecker
- Black-backed Woodpecker
13 Types of Woodpeckers in Nebraska
1. 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 Nebraska, just the size of a chickadee. But its tiny size doesn’t make it difficult to spot. That’s because it’s brave and isn’t afraid to hang out around people if there’s good food around. It’s probably the most common woodpecker to see in all of Nebraska, so the chances are good that you’ll be able to find one.
This cute little bird doesn’t migrate. Instead, it stays in its home year-round, which means you can spot these woodpeckers even during the winter.
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.
You can find this itty-bitty bird woodpecker much anywhere. It lives in rural areas, cities, suburban yards, and wilderness areas.
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 want to see them without going out exploring, hang a suet feeder in your yard. They’re the most frequent visitor of suet feeders of all the different woodpeckers in Nebraska.
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.
2. Lewis’s Woodpecker
Scientific name: Melanerpes lewis
Size: 10.2-11 inches
Weight: 3.1-4.9 ounces
Wingspan: 19-.20.5 inches
This medium-sized bird typically lives across the western half of the US, migrating from the northern part of the country to the southern part during the winter. However, when they’re breeding and migrating in the spring, you might spot them in the midwest.
They have been seen in the Pine Ridge area only during the summer and only rarely.
They don’t dig or peck into trees as most other woodpeckers do. Instead, they hunt for insects crawling around on the bark.
These lovely woodpeckers stand out with their green and pink feathers, red faces, and white necks. They also like to catch insects mid-air while flying, which sets them apart from other birds. That’s something most woodpeckers don’t do, for the most part.
As fall comes around, this industrious bird collects acorns and other nuts and stuffs them into cavities in trees so that they have food for later.
Pairs mate for life and make nests in excavated trees or utility poles.
3. 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 from one another because Hairy woodpeckers are much larger. They also have longer bills, almost the same length as their head.
They’re black and white. You can tell the genders from one another because the adult males have a little red spot on the back of their heads.
These woodpeckers aren’t as common in Nebraska as their cousin, the downy woodpecker. That said, you can still see them in parks, suburban areas, cemeteries, and other quiet wooded or open areas if you’re patient. They also visit suet feeders in suburban backyards.
Like their cousin, 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.
4. American Three-Toed Woodpecker
Scientific name: Picoides dorsalis
Size: 8.3-9.1 inches
Weight: 1.6-2.4 ounces
Wingspan: 14.6-15.3 inches
This woodpecker primarily makes Canada its home, but you will rarely see it pop down to North Dakota, Michigan, and Maine. It also lives year-round in western parts of the country, including Idaho, Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming. It has been definitively identified in Nebraska only a few times.
This bird likes to hunt in burned-out areas and forests where beetles have killed lots of trees. It hunts for insects, pulling and stripping away bark until it finds what it is looking for.
Yes, this bird only has three toes, but you’ll most easily be able to identify it by its coloring. It’s primarily black, but it does have white barring on its sides and back, and the chest is white. The male has a bright yellow crown.
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 Nebraska. 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 Nebraska, but they don’t all look the same.
The males, females, and juveniles vary in appearance depending on where they live. They’re brown overall, with black spots. The underside of the wings and tails are yellow in the eastern half of the US (like Nebraska) and red in the western half of the US. These are the second largest woodpeckers in Nebraska.
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.
You can hear the calls of Northern flickers for a long way off during the spring mating season. 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 feast on other insects such as caterpillars, beetles, and termites. This is 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 Nebraska all year round.
Studies show that Northern Flickers can lose their nests to invasive species like European starlings.
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. They stay in all parts of Nebraska during the winter, which is the non-breeding season.
These birds are 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 on bellies, but it can be so indistinct that you might not be able to identify it unless you get close–which they definitely won’t let happen.
These sapsuckers drill tiny holes into trees with their beaks, and then they wait for the sweet sap to leak out. They lick this up, along with any insects that crawl along and get stuck in the fluid.
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. Williamson’s Sapsucker
Scientific name: Sphyrapicus thyroideus
Size: 8.3-9.8 inches
Weight: 1.6-1.9 ounces
Wingspan: 17 inches
Like other sapsuckers, this one drills small holes into trees. Then they wait for the sap to start leaking out, and they drink it. They also eat ants and other small insects.
They prefer coniferous forests, and they live in the mountains of western North America. They spend their time in the higher elevation forests and drop down to lower elevations during the winter. Rarely, you might see them briefly stop in Nebraska. However, in the 1990s, scientists found that this sapsucker had extended its range as far south as Baja California.
Large for a sapsucker, the males are mostly black with white patches on the wings and a red throat. The females have horizontal barring on their backs. They also have brown heads. The sexes appear so different from one another that scientists initially thought that they were different species.
The males carve out holes in trees to create a nest for the female to lay her eggs in.
8. 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. Typically, their bellies are 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 come from? The woodpeckers do have red feathers on their bellies, but they’re covered by white feathers, so you can’t actually see them.
These active birds live all across the Eastern United States, and you can spot them in the air as they fly by their undulating flight pattern. They live in Nebraska year-round.
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.
9. 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. They have solid black wings with a big white patch and white bodies. To top it off, they have a 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 pale 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 Nebraska. 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 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; a practice homeowners aren’t fond of.
They also hunt their prey, snatching insects out of the air as they fly. That’s unusual behavior for woodpeckers.
10. Pileated Woodpecker
Scientific name: Dryocopus pileatus
Size: 16-19 inches
Weight: 9-14 ounces
Wingspan: 30 inches
The pileated woodpecker lives in Nebraska year-round, though it is rare. 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 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 primarily black and white, but they stand out because of their beautiful 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. In fact, they’re the largest woodpeckers in Nebraska.
The pileated woodpecker doesn’t migrate but 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. It’s easy to see the resemblance when comparing the comic bird to these woodpeckers.
11. Acorn Woodpecker
Scientific name: Melanerpes formicivorus
Size: 7.5-9 inches
Weight: 2.3-3.2 ounces
Wingspan: 14-17 inches
Acorn woodpeckers are often described as having the face of a clown because they have a black mouth surrounded by a white border and black over their eyes. They have a red cap, a black body, and a white patch on the rear and on each wing. The chest is slightly gray or white.
These birds live in evergreen forests on the west coast and in a few parts of the southwest (like Arizona). Rarely, they venture into Nebraska. These birds collect acorns and fill holes in trees full of the collected nuts. These caches of nuts can be used by generations of woodpeckers, and one tree may contain up to 50,000 holes.
In addition to acorns, they also eat insects, especially ants, as well as seeds, nuts, and sometimes the eggs of other birds.
This is one of the few species that prefers to live in small colonies rather than alone, and studies reveal that they do this to help one another raise young, a practice called cooperative breeding.
12. 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 southern states of the US from Virginia down the coast to Florida and as far west as the eastern edge of Texas. This woodpecker makes the southern part of Nebraska its home.
You might expect this bird to have a dramatic red cockade, 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 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. Their heads are white with a black crown and stripes down their cheeks that extend down their necks. The males and females look 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. That’s because experts want to know when people spot these birds since they’ve become relatively rare.
13. Black-backed Woodpecker
Scientific name: Picoides arcticus
Size: 9.1 inches
Weight: 2.1-3.1 ounces
Wingspan: 15.8-16.5 inches
Many woodpeckers in North America are some pattern of black and white, often with a red patch on the head. This woodpecker stands out because of its solid black back and white chest. It has a black face with a distinct white stripe. The male has a small yellow crown.
Making its home in burned-out forests across Canada and the western US, its black coloring helps it blend in with the charred trees that it hunts on. It eats beetle larvae and will hang out in recently-burned areas for several years before moving onto more newly burned areas.
It has been identified in Nebraska just a few times, but it is known to visit.
Also Read: Owls in Nebraska