Washington state is home to some pretty majestic mountains like the towering Mt. Rainer.
People love to visit the mountains for all kinds of recreation such as hiking, rock climbing, skiing, and swimming in the many lakes.
Do you know who else loves Washington’s mountains? Woodpeckers!
You can see 11 different woodpecker species in Washington state, and most of them make the region their home all year long, so you don’t have to wait for summer to start your bird-watching adventures.
In fact, Washington state is even home to the Great Washington State Birding Trail, where you will find the best places to spot woodpeckers in all of the Evergreen state. The Palouse to Pines loop, in particular, is fantastic if finding woodpeckers is your goal.
Here is the list of species of woodpeckers in Washington state:
- Downy Woodpecker
- Hairy Woodpecker
- Lewis’s Woodpecker
- Red-breasted Sapsucker
- Red-Naped Sapsucker
- American Three-Toed Woodpecker
- Northern Flicker
- Williamson’s Sapsucker
- Pileated Woodpecker
- Black-backed Woodpecker
- White-headed Woodpecker
11 Types of Woodpeckers in Washington
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 Washington state, 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 Washington state, so the chances are good that you’ll be able to spot one no matter where you live.
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 Washington state. 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, suburbs, and forests.
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 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 Washington state 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. Sadly, since Washington state has experienced many wildfires in the past few years, they can be easier to spot in those burned 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. 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 eastern part of Washington state only during migration and breeding, and they live in the central part of the state year-round.
They are only rarely seen on the coast.
They don’t dig or peck into the wood like other woodpeckers, but they’ll hunt insects crawling around on the bark.
These pretty woodpeckers are green and pink with a red face and white neck, making them stand out among other species. It also likes to catch insects mid-air while 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.
4. Red-Breasted Sapsucker
Scientific name: Sphyrapicus ruber
Size: 7.9-8.7 inches
Weight: 1.9-2.2 ounces
Wingspan: 14.5-16 inches
Red-breasted sapsuckers live on the west coast of the US, migrating from Canada to parts of Northern California in the winter. These woodpeckers spend their time year-round on the west side of Washington state and breed in the central part of the state.
They have brush-like tongues that they use to lap up sap that they access by pecking little holes in the wood of trees. They’ll also eat the soft green layer of wood underneath the bark. They also eat berries and fruit and will visit suet feeders.
The adults have a red head and chest, with a black back and mottled grey and black chest. Juveniles lack the red head and chest and have an overall brown hue.
They’re related to Red-naped sapsuckers, and for a while, scientists thought they were the same species. Scientists have determined that these birds prefer old-growth forests and that populations might be reduced as old-growth forests are cut down.
5. 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 only visit Washington state during the breeding season. During that time, you can find them in the eastern part of the state.
6. 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
They live in the central and northeastern parts of the state all year long.
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 Washington state yard, welcome them! They eat destructive beetles that can kill trees.
7. 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 Washington state. 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 Washington state.
They’re brown in color overall, with black spots. The underside of the wings and tails are 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.
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 feast 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 all parts of Washington state year-round.
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.
8. 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 region of Washington state 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.
9. Pileated Woodpecker
Scientific name: Dryocopus pileatus
Size: 16-19 inches
Weight: 9-14 ounces
Wingspan: 30 inches
The pileated woodpecker lives in the western and eastern parts of Washington state year-round, but they don’t make their home in the central region.
They often make their nests in utility poles or high up in tall trees in deadwood. 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 have even been known to chomp 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 are very distinct because of their bright red crest. The males also have a red stripe on the side of their faces. These are larger birds, about the same size as a crow.
The pileated woodpecker doesn’t migrate. It stays in the same area year after year. They will, however, move their nest if the eggs fall out of it.
The cartoon bird Woody Woodpecker was likely based on this species.
10. 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.
Look for this woodpecker year-round in the central and eastern parts of Washington state.
11. White-Headed Woodpecker
Scientific name: Dryobates albolarvatus
Size: 8.3-9.1 inches
Weight: 1.9-2.3 ounces
Wingspan: 16-17 inches
These unusual woodpeckers only live in central Northern and Southern California and the Pacific Northwest in pine forests. That means you won’t find them on the coast or eastern part of Washington state, but if you’re patient, you can find them in the Cascades and the Olympics.
They eat pine nuts and insects that they find under the bark of the tree. They don’t typically peck holes into the wood as other woodpeckers do. Instead, they peel and pull off the bark of trees to look for bugs hiding underneath.
They are black with a white head and white patches on the undersides of the wins. The males have a red cap. They’re the only woodpecker in North America with a solid black body and solid white head, making them easy to identify.
They typically flock in pairs or small groups made up of related birds.
Also Read: Owls in Washington State