Oklahoma is home to some pretty diverse landscapes. Nature lovers can go exploring in the rich hills of Quartz Mountain State Park, while the Black Mesa area offers a stark, simple beauty that is home to some hard-to-find woodpeckers.
Thanks to its central location in the country, bird lovers can find 11 different species of woodpeckers in Oklahoma. That’s because both southern woodpeckers and eastern woodpeckers make the state home for most of the year. The panhandle is particularly ripe with rare woodpeckers.
That doesn’t mean you have to head out into the wilderness to find yourself some woodpeckers. Even Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Norman citizens can look right out their windows and see several species. Downies and Hairy woodpeckers, in particular, are frequent visitors of suburban suet feeders.
Here is the list of species of woodpeckers in Oklahoma:
- Golden-fronted Woodpecker
- Lewis’s Woodpecker
- Downy Woodpecker
- Red-Headed Woodpecker
- Hairy Woodpecker
- Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
- Northern Flicker
- Pileated Woodpecker
- Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Red-cockaded Woodpecker
- Ladder-backed Woodpecker
11 Types of Woodpeckers in Oklahoma
1. 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, which makes 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 suet is available.
You might hear these birds before you see them. They have a loud call, and they are pretty vocal in the morning, especially during the spring.
They also aren’t afraid of humans, so they aren’t hard to spot if they live in your area.
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 lives across the western half of the US, migrating from the northern part to the southern part during the winter. They live in just the furthest western tip of the Oklahoma panhandle all year-round.
They don’t dig or peck into the wood like most woodpeckers but find insects crawling around on the bark.
These pretty woodpeckers are green and pink with a red face and white neck, which makes them stand out among other species. It also likes to catch insects mid-air while they’re flying, which sets it apart from most other woodpeckers.
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. 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 Oklahoma. They’re about 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 Oklahoma, 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 love the idea of being able 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 Oklahoma.
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.
4. 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 Oklahoma. You can bring them to your yard during the winter by offering them some citrus or suet.
They’re 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; 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.
5. 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, which are almost the same length as their head.
They’re primarily 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 Oklahoma 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, the downy woodpecker, hairy woodpeckers don’t migrate during the cold weather. They 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.
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 Oklahoma during 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. Northern Flicker
Scientific name: Colaptes auratus
Size: 11-12 inches
Weight: 4-6.5 ounces
Wingspan: 16.5-20 inches
The beautiful Northern Flicker woodpecker lives in open habitats near forests and in parks and cemeteries across Oklahoma. Unlike some woodpeckers, they like to hunt around the ground rather than in the trees. They are a frequent visitor to suet feeders in suburban and urban yards.
They’re one of the most common woodpeckers in Oklahoma, 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 Oklahoma) and red in the western half of the US. These are the second largest woodpeckers in Oklahoma.
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! You can tempt them to visit your home by offering a suet feeder in the yard. There are also instances of them catching young bats as they leave the nest.
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 Oklahoma all year round.
Studies show that Northern Flickers can lose their nests to invasive species like European starlings.
8. Pileated Woodpecker
Scientific name: Dryocopus pileatus
Size: 16-19 inches
Weight: 9-14 ounces
Wingspan: 30 inches
The pileated woodpecker lives in Oklahoma 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 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 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 Oklahoma.
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.
9. 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 Oklahoma 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.
10. 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. They also live in just the southeastern part of Oklahoma.
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 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. Since they’re becoming uncommon, experts want to know if you happen to see them.
11. Ladder-Backed Woodpecker
Scientific name: Dryobates scalaris
Size: 6.3-7.1 inches
Weight: 0.7-1.7 ounces
Wingspan: 13 inches
Across the arid desert of the southwestern US live the Ladder-backed woodpecker. These tiny foragers flit among the cacti to find food, and they’ll also visit feeders that have mealworms or black oil sunflower seeds.
They’re black and white with white bars across the wings and back that look very much like a ladder. The males have a red crown. The chest is spotted black and white.
While other woodpecker species that make their home in the desert need large plants to nest, these petite little birds can live in the scrub and shrubs. They’re a close relative of the Nutall’s woodpecker.
They live year-round in Oklahoma, but only in the western tip of the panhandle and the southwestern part of the state.
Also Read: Owls in Oklahoma