Types Of Woodpeckers In Virginia (Complete Guide)

Located on the south-central east coast of the United States, Virginia’s climate and geography have been heavily shaped by the Chesapeake Bay, which borders the state to the east, and the Appalachian Mountains to the west. This has created a diversity of animal and plant life thriving across the state, including many birds. With so many different bird species in Virginia, you may be wondering, what woodpeckers can be found in Virginia?

Eight woodpecker species can be found in the state of Virginia, including the Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, Red-Headed Woodpecker, and Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. Many of these species share a common habitat and all forage for insects but have different hunting styles. Except for one species, all can be spotted year-round.

Keep reading to learn more about the eight species of woodpeckers in Virginia!

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The list of woodpeckers below has been compiled from historical sighting reports from various sources. Whilst some of the birds listed are uncommon and hard to spot, we've still included them as they are sometimes seen still in Virginia.

Downy Woodpecker

Dryobates pubescens

Downy woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Downy woodpecker perched on tree

Downy Woodpecker perched on a tree

Downy woodpecker bringing food to nest

Downy Woodpecker taking food to its nest

Downy woodpecker at nest

Downy Woodpecker at nest

Downy woodpecker hanging from birdfeeder

Downy Woodpecker feeding from feeder in back yard

Length:

14.5cm to 17cm

Wingspan:

25cm to 30cm

Weight:

21g to 28g

Seen :

All year

Downy Woodpecker

Although Downy Woodpeckers can be seen year-round in Virginia, spotting them can be difficult due to their small size. As the smallest woodpeckers in North America, they are between the size of a robin and a sparrow. Downy Woodpeckers can be identified by their black and white features and the males have a red patch on their heads.

Downy Woodpeckers live in a variety of habitats including woodlands, forest edges, clearings, and gardens. They forage for insects in weeds, tall grass, trees, and commonly visit feeders. Like the other features, their voice is scaled down, making a descending whinny and “pik” noise.

Hairy Woodpecker

Dryobates villosus

Hairy woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Female hairy woodpecker on branch

Female Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy woodpecker on branch

Hairy Woodpecker perched on a branch

Female hairy woodpecker

Female Hairy Woodpecker perched on branch

Length:

25cm to 33cm

Wingspan:

38cm

Weight:

43g to 99g

Seen :

All year

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpeckers are common in Virginia and around all year for observation. They occupy mature forests but also live in suburbs, parks, and woodlands. A great place to look is recently burned forests since these birds take advantage of foraging. With long, strong bills, they excavate dead wood and bark, seeking the internal insects. They can also be seen frequenting backyard feeders.

The Hairy Woodpecker appears as a large version of the Downy Woodpecker with bold black and white checkered feathers and a large white patch on their back. The males feature a red patch on the back of their heads that is common with other species.

Lewis’s Woodpecker

Melanerpes lewis

Lewiss woodpecker

Lewis’s Woodpecker

Lewiss woodpecker 1

Lewis’s Woodpecker sitting on branch

Lewiss woodpecker 2

Lewis’s Woodpecker hanging from branch

Lewiss woodpecker in flight

Lewis’s Woodpecker in flight

Length:

26cm to 28cm

Wingspan:

49cm to 52cm

Weight:

120g

Seen :

Extremely rare, but sightings reported historically between January to March

Lewis’s Woodpecker

Lewis’s Woodpeckers are a hearty bird with a long tail, long wings, and an elongated body, falling in size between a robin and a crow. They typically appear with a dark red face, a dark green back, a gray collar, and a pink belly. You can spot them in woodlands, areas with scattered trees, orchards, burned forests, and pine forests year-round.

The Lewis Woodpecker rarely digs into trees for insects, like other woodpeckers. Instead, it gathers insects from fly catches and bark. This species spends extended periods watching for insects from the top of a tree then flies down to catch them.

To see a Lewis's Woodpecker in the state of Virginia is extremely rare, but there have been historical reports of sightings between January and March.

Northern Flicker

Colaptes auratus

Northern flicker

Northern Flicker

Northern flicker close up

Close up of a Northern Flicker

Northern flicker calling

Northern Flicker calling

Northern flicker feeding young

Northern Flicker feeding young

Northern flicker in flight

Northern Flicker in flight

Northern flicker chick at nest

Northern Flicker chick at nest

Length:

28cm to 31cm

Wingspan:

50cm to 55cm

Weight:

120g

Seen :

All year

Northern Flicker

Northern Flickers are another common year-round Virginia woodpecker species. They are considered large woodpeckers falling between a robin and a crow. Unlike other Virginia species, Norther Flickers feature pale brown feathers and a variety of dark markings on their undercarriage. They have a slightly curved bill, long tails, and slim heads with yellow on their tails and wings.

Northern Flickers are differentiated from other Virginia woodpeckers because they forage for insects on the forest floor instead of on the sides of trees. If they do perch on trees, it's on the upright of branches instead of the trunk side. Northern Flickers do not typically use feeders but have been spotted in birdbaths and backyards with trees.

Pileated Woodpecker

Dryocopus pileatus

Pileated woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Pair of pileated woodpeckers

Pair of Pileated Woodpeckers

Pileated woodpecker close up

Close up of a Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated woodpecker 1

Pileated Woodpecker perched on a branch

Pileated woodpecker in flight

Pileated Woodpecker in flight

Pileated woodpecker with young

Pileated Woodpecker with chicks

Length:

40cm to 49cm

Wingspan:

66cm to 75cm

Weight:

250g to 350g

Seen :

All year

Pileated Woodpecker

Featuring a colorful red crest, bold white stripes, and a large size, the Pileated Woodpecker is easy to spot and identify. As the largest woodpeckers in the United States, they are about the size of a crow and can be observed year-round in Virginia. They mostly reside in old forests with fallen logs and dead wood but can sometimes be seen in backyard feeders.

A great way to identify their call is by listening for loud drumming and looking for rectangular-shaped holes in wood and trees. They often drill deep into the wood in search of carpenter ants and various other insects, which can cause trees to break in half. May other creatures rely on Pileated Woodpecker excavations for shelter.

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

Dryobates borealis

Red cockaded woodpecker

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

Red cockaded woodpecker 1

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker perched on tree trunk

Red cockaded woodpecker 2

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker sitting on branch

Length:

20cm to 23cm

Wingspan:

35cm to 38cm

Weight:

42g to 52g

Seen :

All year

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker can be found year-round in small sections of the state but is rate. In 1970, this species was added to the endangered species list and has disappeared from many habitats due to the logging industry. The best opportunity to see a Red-Cockaded Woodpecker is by visiting a protected national forest or wildlife refuge where their nests are easily located due to markings. Like many other woodpeckers, their diet consists of insects in the egg, larvae, and adult stages of growth.

Frequently marked by flowing sap near their roosting cavities and nests, the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker requires pine forests to survive, often with minimal dense vegetation. This is a specific habitat type that was formed by wildfires from lightning storms but is rare to find. This species is a robin-sized bird with straight and small bills. Their feathers are mostly black and white with barring on the back and a white patch on their cheeks. “Cockade” is an ornament worn on a hat, which is a barely noticeable red streak on the edge of this cheek.

Red-Headed Woodpecker

Melanerpes erythrocephalus

Red headed woodpecker

Red-Headed Woodpecker

Red headed woodpecker 1

Red-Headed Woodpecker perched on an old tree stump

Red headed woodpecker at nest

Red-Headed Woodpecker at nest

Red headed woodpecker in flight

Red-Headed Woodpecker in flight

Pair of red headed woodpeckers

Pair of Red-Headed Woodpeckers

Length:

19.4cm to 23.5cm

Wingspan:

33cm to 37cm

Weight:

56g to 91g

Seen :

All year

Red-Headed Woodpecker

The Red-Headed Woodpecker is also easily identified by it is bold colors, patches on black wings, crimson-red heads, and bright white bellies. With a size like the Hairy Woodpecker, the Red-Headed Woodpecker features a short tail, large round head, and short but powerful bill which helps them catch insects midair or by hammering through the wood.

This species can be found year-round in Virginia in forests with spacious understories, semi-open country, pine savannahs, and wetlands. They typically store extra food in the crevices of trees to prepare for winter.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Sphyrapicus varius

Yellow bellied sapsucker

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Female yellow bellied sapsucker

Female Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Juvenile yellow bellied sapsucker

Juvenile Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow bellied sapsucker close up

Close up of a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow bellied sapsucker in flight

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker in flight

Length:

21cm to 22cm

Wingspan:

34cm to 40cm

Weight:

43g to 55g

Seen :

All year, but more common in winter

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Non-breeding Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers can only be spotted in Virginia during the colder, winter months. They typically occupy the northern territories of Canada, so they reside in young deciduous forests. One excellent indicator of this species is by neatly spaced, tiny holes in trees. They can be spotted dining near sap wells and on the cambium of the tree. Other species also take advantage of the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker’s work by drinking leftover sap. You can also find them sitting motionless on tree branches and eating insects. Listen for their drumming and mew-like call.

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