It’s pretty hard to beat Utah when it comes to wild, natural areas. The state has five National Parks and tons of smaller National Monuments and state parks. Not only does this mean that you can have a lot of outdoor adventures in Utah, but you can also spot a lot of different woodpeckers.
Regardless of whether you’re visiting Zion National Park or you make Salt Lake City your home, there are going to be several different species nearby. You might even be able to spot some more of the uncommon woodpeckers in Utah, like the three-toed woodpecker.
Not all of the woodpeckers on this list make Utah their home year-round, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add all of them to your Life List. Just keep a good eye out and know where to look. This guide can help you find them.
Here is the list of species of woodpeckers in Utah:
- Downy Woodpecker
- Hairy Woodpecker
- Northern Flicker
- Red-Headed Woodpecker
- Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
- Acorn Woodpecker
- Lewis’s Woodpecker
- Red-Naped Sapsucker
- American Three-Toed Woodpecker
- Williamson’s Sapsucker
- Ladder-backed Woodpecker
11 Types of Woodpeckers in Utah
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 that you can find in Utah (and much of the rest of the US). But don’t worry, 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 Utah, so the chances are good that you’ll be able to spot one.
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. While they may change their habitat range during the seasons, they don’t travel too far.
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 Utah. They also love deadwood, which means that you can spot them in the many recently burned forests in the state.
You can find this small woodpecker 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. Their nests can be extremely high up in trees.
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.
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. Hairy Woodpecker
Scientific name: Picoides villosus
Size: 7.5 inches
Weight: 1.4-3.4 ounces
Wingspan: 13-16 inches
Hairy woodpeckers look similar to downy woodpeckers, but they’re 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 Utah as their cousin, the downy woodpecker, but they’re still pretty easy to find. You can see them 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. Since Utah has had many wildfires in the past few years, they can be easier to spot in those areas rather than in cities.
Populations have been declining in the past decades because they’re losing their habitat. They also face pressure from invasive birds like European starlings, which steal their nesting spots.
3. 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 Utah. 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 another one of the most common woodpeckers in Utah, 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. 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. Confusing, right?
In Utah, these woodpeckers can be identified by their salmon and yellow wings on the undersides.
In the spring, you can hear the calls of Northern flickers for a long way off. They have a 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. Northern Flickers stay put in Utah year-round, despite the cold winter.
Studies show that Northern Flickers can lose their nests to invaders like European starlings. Plus, many humans are trying to deter them because they can make holes in the wood and cavities of homes.
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 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 usually cross to the west side of the Rocky Mountains, but they can regularly be found in all parts east, from Canada to Florida. Rarely, you might spot them in the eastern parts of Utah during the breeding season, but they aren’t there for very long or very often. If you do spot one, let the local birding societies know!
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. Unfortunately, they’re in danger of becoming a threatened species due to habitat loss.
5. 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. You’ll rarely spot these woodpeckers in the eastern part of Utah as they migrate up and down the country.
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.
The males do the nest building by drilling out a large hole and filling it with wood shavings for the female to lay her eggs on.
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.
6. 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. 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. They’ll also make nests in one of the holes that they create.
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.
Acorn woodpeckers are rare visitors to Utah. They’ve only been spotted in the southeastern part of the state during the non-breeding season. Still, if you live in the area or you’re visiting, you might be able to add them to your Life List!
7. 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 of the country to the southern region during the winter. Named for Lewis Merryweather of Lewis and Clark fame, this woodpecker hangs out in the northern part of Utah during the breeding season, migrates through the central areas, and lives in the southern part of the state year-round.
They don’t dig or peck into the wood 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 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.
8. Red-Naped Sapsucker
Scientific name: Sphyrapicus nuchalis
Weight: 1.1-2.3 ounces
Wingspan: 16-16.9 inches
As the name suggests, this bird has a thing for the sap in trees. It will tap little holes into the bark so that sugary sap runs out, and it can lap it up with its tiny tongue.
They particularly love aspen, pine, and birch trees. They’ll even nest in backyards that have those trees, so if you have these trees, keep an eye out for this bird. You can even increase the chance that they’ll visit or come to stay if you provide them with a suet feeder.
These sapsuckers have vertical white patches on their back that you can only see when the wing is folded. They have black and white striped bodies and heads and a bright red cap and throat, though some females have a white throat.
This is a close relative of the red-bellied sapsucker and the yellow-bellied sapsucker. They all look fairly similar.
Red-naped sapsuckers live in the southwest part of the state year-round and the rest of the state during the breeding season.
9. 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
The Salt Lake Tribune covered their hunt to find the three-toed woodpecker in Utah, which ended in success. If they can find these uncommon birds, so can you.
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.
If you see these woodpeckers in your Utah yard, welcome them! They eat destructive beetles that can kill trees.
10. 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 live in western North America’s mountains. They spend their time in the higher elevation forests and drop down to lower elevations during the winter. In the 1990s, scientists found that this sapsucker had extended its range as far south as Baja California, but they only live in the central part of Utah during their breeding season.
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 the trees to create a nest for the female to lay her eggs in.
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 chest is spotted black and white. The males have a red crown.
While other woodpecker species that make their home in the desert need large plants to make a nest in, these petite little birds can live in the scrub and shrubs. They’re a close relative of the Nutall’s woodpecker.
You can only spot them in the very southwest part of the state near St. George and other nearby areas, but they live there year-round.
Also Read: Owls in Utah