Types Of Woodpeckers In Wisconsin (Complete Guide)

Featuring over 32,900 miles of rivers and streams, 15,000 inland lakes, and thousands of small ponds, Wisconsin is heavily aquatic, which draws a diversity of insects to the many shores and surrounding forests, the perfect place for woodpeckers to hunt their prey. Some of the following woodpeckers are plentiful to observe while others are difficult and can only be found at certain times. With such a vast number of woodpeckers, you must first understand, what woodpeckers can be found in Wisconsin?

10 woodpecker species can be found in Wisconsin including, the American Three-Toed Woodpecker, The Black-Backed Woodpecker, the Downy Woodpecker, the Hairy Woodpecker, Lewis’s Woodpecker, the Northern Flicker, the Pileated Woodpecker, the Red-Bellied Woodpecker, the Red-Headed Woodpecker, and the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. Most of these birds have similar diets and habitats but some have behavioral differences that you wouldn’t expect from a woodpecker.

Interested in learning more about woodpeckers in Wisconsin? Keep reading to find out!

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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 Wisconsin.

Lewis's Woodpecker

Melanerpes lewis

Lewiss woodpecker

Lewis's Woodpecker

Lewiss woodpecker 1

Lewis's Woodpecker perched 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 :

Uncommon, but between mainly in the winter

Lewis's Woodpecker

The Lewis’s Woodpecker is a green species with a red face that looks dark depending on the lighting and is a bulky pink color. While it has the appearance of a woodpecker, this bird forages like a flycatcher and flies like a crow. Lewis’s Woodpeckers boast an elongated body, long tail, and long wings with a woodpecker-like bill. They perch on posts, wires, and bare branches to snatch flying insects in midair.

You can typically find them in open ponderosa pine, woodlands, agricultural segments with scattered trees, orchards, and burned forests. While they are uncommon in Wisconsin, the best time to see them is in the 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 round, but most common between April and November

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Although it breeds in Canada, the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker can be seen year-round in Wisconsin but is mostly observed between April and November. These woodpeckers primarily feed on the sap that is acquired by drilling holes in forest trees and open woodlands.

Males can be easily identified by their bright red forehead, which is paler in females. This species was named from its yellow wash of color across the back, belly, and chest. Males have a distinct red patch on their throat while females have a white patch.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Melanerpes erythrocephalus

Red headed woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

Pair of red headed woodpeckers

Pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers

Red headed woodpecker 1

Red-headed Woodpecker perched on an old tree stump

Red headed woodpecker at nest

Red-headed Woodpecker at its nest

Red headed woodpecker in flight

Red-headed Woodpecker in flight

Length:

19.4cm to 23.5cm

Wingspan:

33cm to 37cm

Weight:

56g to 91g

Seen :

All year

Red-headed Woodpecker

The Red-Headed Woodpecker has one distinct feature which is also the derivation of its name: a red head. This species is approximately nine inches in length and features a glossy blue-black tail, wings, and back with the upper tail and underparts a white color. The entire upper breast, throat, chin, neck, and head are crimson. Outer tail feathers are commonly tipped in white.

You can spot the Red-Headed Woodpecker year-round in Wisconsin around large, scattered trees, shade trees in towns, orchards, farms, and groves. They drill into trees in search of spiders, earthworms, and other insects, but also eat cultivated and wild fruit, berries, seeds, and nuts. If none of these foods are available, they have been known to eat bark.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Melanerpes carolinus

Red bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Pair of red bellied woodpeckers

Pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers

Red bellied woodpecker feeding

Red-bellied Woodpecker feeding

Red bellied woodpecker perched on branch

Red-bellied Woodpecker perched on the branch of a tree

Length:

23cm to 27cm

Wingspan:

33cm to 42cm

Weight:

56g to 91g

Seen :

All year round

Red-bellied Woodpecker

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker is behaviorally unique in that it stores its food in trees for a long Wisconsin winter. Like most woodpeckers, this species eats a variety of insects but can consist of more than 50% plant material depending on the season. These include wild and cultivated fruits, seeds, acorns, and other nuts. Occasional dining options include small fish, oozing sap, small bird eggs, and tree frogs.

You can identify this woodpecker by its red crown and nape (males) and red nape with a grayish-brown crown (females). Both sexes feature a black barred with white back and tail, white rump, and grayish-white undercarriage. This woodpecker can be observed year-round in wooded areas.

American Three-toed Woodpecker

Picoides dorsalis

American three toed woodpecker

American Three-toed Woodpecker

American three toed woodpecker male excavating nest

American Three-toed Woodpecker excavating nest

American three toed woodpecker searching for bugs

American Three-toed Woodpecker in search of bugs

Length:

21cm to 23cm

Wingspan:

37cm to 39cm

Weight:

45g to 68g

Seen :

Most of the year, but fairly rare

American Three-toed Woodpecker

As a native North American woodpecker, the American Three-Toed Woodpecker features black wings and rump, one black stripe by their beak, a blackhead, white throat and belly, black and white flanks, and adult males have a yellow cap.

They are sometimes found around the waters of Lake Superior in upper Wisconsin most of the year but are rare to spot. The American Three-Toed Woodpecker dines on tree sap, fruit, Spruce Beetles, wood-boring beetle larvae, and other insects.

Black-backed Woodpecker

Picoides arcticus

Black backed woodpecker

Black-backed Woodpecker

Black backed woodpecker female

Female Black-backed Woodpecker

Black backed woodpecker at nest

Black-backed Woodpecker at nest

Length:

22cm to 24cm

Wingspan:

40cm to 42cm

Weight:

61g to 88g

Seen :

Uncommon, but all year round

Black-backed Woodpecker

The Black-Backed Woodpecker features three toes on its feet and is considered a medium-sized species. They can be identified as a blackbird with a white stomach and a yellow cap on adult males. Also called the Arctic three-toed woodpecker, the Black-Backed Woodpecker is regularly confused with the American Three-Toed Woodpecker due to the same features.

Their diet consists of spiders, engraver beetles, wood-bring beetles, and the larvae of mountain pine beetles. You can mainly find them in mature or old-growth forests or burnt forests to forage for dinner. You can spot them within state lines year-round, but they are uncommon.

Downy Woodpecker

Dryobates pubescens

Downy woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Downy woodpecker at nest

Downy Woodpecker at nest hole

Downy woodpecker hanging from birdfeeder

Downy Woodpecker hanging from feeder in back yard

Downy woodpecker perched on tree

Downy Woodpecker perched on a branch

Downy woodpecker at nest

Downy Woodpecker at nest

Length:

14.5cm to 17cm

Wingspan:

25cm to 30cm

Weight:

21g to 28g

Seen :

All year

Downy Woodpecker

Although this is the smallest woodpecker in North America, there are smaller species elsewhere in the world. You can identify the Downy Woodpecker by its white back, throat, and belly, black upper area and wings, and white bar above and below the eyes.

Downy Woodpeckers have an almost identical plumage pattern as the Hairy Woodpecker but are distinguished by their bill length and the black spots on the white tail feathers.

These tiny birds live in orchards, parks, gardens, and woodland areas year-round where they hunt for caterpillars, gall wasps, ants, beetles, and other insects.

Hairy Woodpecker

Dryobates villosus

Hairy woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Female hairy woodpecker

Female Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy woodpecker on branch

Hairy Woodpecker hanging on to a branch

Female hairy woodpecker on branch

Female Hairy Woodpecker perched on a branch

Length:

25cm to 33cm

Wingspan:

38cm

Weight:

43g to 99g

Seen :

All year

Hairy Woodpecker

Located in deciduous forests, the Hairy Woodpecker is a medium-sized species identified by the white bar above and below the eyes. Males feature a red patch on the back of their heads. This species is almost identical in appearance to the Downy Woodpecker.

Like many other woodpeckers, these species feed on wood-boring beetle larvae, caterpillars, ants, nuts, seeds, and berries. It almost has been known to feed on sap from damaged trees or after Sapsuckers have retrieved sap. You can spot the Hairy Woodpecker in Wisconsin year-round.

Pileated Woodpecker

Dryocopus pileatus

Pileated woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Pair of pileated woodpeckers

Pair of Pileated Woodpeckers

Pileated woodpecker 1

Pileated Woodpecker perching on a branch

Pileated woodpecker close up

Close up of a Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated woodpecker in flight

Pileated Woodpecker in flight

Pileated woodpecker with young

Pileated Woodpecker with young birds

Length:

40cm to 49cm

Wingspan:

66cm to 75cm

Weight:

250g to 350g

Seen :

All year

Pileated Woodpecker

As the largest woodpecker in North America, the name Pileated comes from the Latin word “Pileatus” meaning cap, which is shown by the red crest on their head. Adult Pileated Woodpeckers can range in size from 16-19-inches long and have a wingspan of 26-30-inches.

This species is mainly a blackbird with a wine line down the throat, a red crest, and a large bill. Their call can be identified by a “whack-a-wack-a-wack sound.

This woodpecker species lives in or near forests or heavily wooded areas where they chip out rectangular holes in trees to find ant colonies. You can observe the Pileated Woodpecker year-round in Wisconsin.

Northern Flicker

Colaptes auratus

Northern flicker

Northern Flicker

Northern flicker close up

Close up of a Northern Flicker

Northern flicker chick at nest

Northern Flicker at nest

Northern flicker feeding young

Northern Flicker feeding young birds

Northern flicker in flight

Northern Flicker in flight

Length:

28cm to 31cm

Wingspan:

50cm to 55cm

Weight:

120g

Seen :

All year

Northern Flicker

Northern Flickers are fun birds to watch when searching for insects on lawns and in trees. Found mostly in wooded areas, the Northern Flicker appearance differs based on their region. Most Northern Flickers are about one-foot tall with spotted tan to cream bellies and a brown barred back.

his species features red napes and males have a mustache behind their bill. The curved beaks and long tongues allow them to reach into trees and logs that they are drilling into for insects.

The Northern Flicker can be observed hammering away in Wisconsin’s forests year-round.

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