Common Woodpeckers in North America
The U.S. has 22 species of woodpecker's, according to Sibley's. All have chisel-like bills and stiff tails and are generally found in wooded areas. Some of the most common:
Small as a chickadee, the black-and-white-checkered Downy Woodpecker inhabits almost all of the U.S. and a good chunk of Canada.
It's easy to confuse a Downy with a Hairy Woodpecker; a visual comparison helps.
The similar, less-bold, and larger Hairy Woodpecker has a much longer beak. It shares the same range as the Downy, but you can find it in Mexico, too.
This woodpecker is less likely to visit feeders.
You can find the fascinating, atypical Northern Flicker hopping along the ground, hunting for ants, beetles, and other insects.
Flickers have a polka-dotted belly, black spots on white. When they fly, you can see a flash of yellow or red. They are brownish with interesting black crescents, black bars, and other black markings.
Flickers will visit feeders for seeds from time to time, and you can find them all over the U.S. as well as parts of Canada and Central America.
The crow-sized Pileated Woodpecker can be found in the East and the South, but you will rarely find it at a backyard feeder.
A threatened species in some parts of the U.S., the Red-headed Woodpecker, striking in in red, black, and white, eats nuts, seeds, fruit, insects, other birds, small rodents.
Try a birdhouse to encourage Red-headed Woodpecker populations. Just be prepared to aggressively defend the birdhouse from invasive European Starlings.
The Red-bellied Woodpecker, pale, medium-sized, with a distinctive red cap, enjoys insects, seeds, nuts, and the occasional small rodent. You'll sometimes see it at backyard feeders, including suet and nut feeders.
This article, now updated, was first published on June 25th, 2008.