10 Types of Woodpeckers in Alaska to explore

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Woodpeckers in Alaska

If you’re a bird enthusiast, you’ll want to learn about the Woodpeckers in Alaska. These fascinating birds can be found in many state regions, making it an ideal place for birdwatching.

Alaska is an excellent place for these birds to live because there are plenty of trees and other wooded areas where they can find food. 

The most common woodpeckers in Alaska

The most common woodpeckers in Alaska include the Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Northern Flicker and the American Three-toed Woodpecker. Less common Woodpeckers in Alaska include the Black-backed Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker and the Pileated Woodpecker.

In this article, we will discuss ten different Woodpecker species found in Alaska. We will also provide information on identifying the Woodpeckers in your areas, such as their size, calls, plumage, and feeding behavior.

We have organized this list from the most likely to be seen to the least likely to be seen.

Alaska Woodpeckers

According to the latest data from ebird, there are ten observed species of Woodpeckers in Alaska. The first five species are common, and the last five are more scarce and less likely to be seen. This data has been collected from over 13,000 dedicated bird watchers throughout Alaska.

Here are some quick facts:

  • The Downy Woodpecker is the most common Woodpecker in Alaska
  • The Pileated Woodpecker is the least common Woodpecker in Alaska
  • The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest Woodpecker in Alaska
  • The Down Woodpecker is the smallest Woodpecker in Alaska
  • The Downy Woodpecker and Hairy Woodpeckers are common backyard birds of Alaska and the two species most likely to visit your bird feeders.

10 Types Of Woodpeckers In Alaska

1. Downy Woodpecker

The downy woodpecker is the smallest member of the woodpecker family in North America. They are found in wooded areas throughout North America and are non-migratory, and will stay in their territories year-round. They can be seen in western Alaska all year round.

They are primarily black with white stripes running down their backs and white spotted wings. The males have a red patch on the back of their heads, while the females have a white patch.

  • Length: 14-17cm (5.5 to 7 inches)
  • Weight: 21-28g (0.5 to 1 oz)
  • Wingspan: 25-30cm (10 to 12 inches)
  • Size: Smaller than a Robin but larger than a sparrow

Their bills are short, straight, and chisel-like, which they use to drill into trees to find insects to eat.

The downy woodpecker is a very vocal bird and will often be heard before they are seen. Their calls consist of a sharp “pik” sound followed by a softer “pik”. They also have a drumming call used to mark their territory or attract a mate.

These birds are most active during the day and can be seen crawling up tree trunks, hopping from branch to branch, or hanging upside down from branches while foraging for food.

Downy woodpeckers primarily eat insects, but they will also eat fruits, berries, and nuts. They are also frequent visitors to bird feeders that offer suet, sunflower seeds or peanuts.

The downy woodpecker is a cavity nester, which means they will drill a hole in a tree to make their nest. Both the male and female will take turns drilling the hole and incubating the eggs.

Females will lay between 3-6 white eggs per clutch. They incubate their eggs for about two weeks before the chicks hatch. 

After hatching, it takes roughly another three weeks for the chicks to fledge or grow their adult feathers and be able to fly on their own.

2. Hairy Woodpecker

The hairy woodpecker is a mid-sized woodpecker found in the eastern United States. They are non-migratory and can be seen in central Alaska all year round.

These birds have black with white stripes running down their backs and wings and white underparts. The males have red on the back of their heads, while the females have no red.

They appear similar to Downy Woodpeckers, except they are larger and have longer bills.

  • Length: 18-26cm (7 to 10 inches)
  • Weight: 40-95g (1.4 to 4 oz)
  • Wingspan: 33-41cm (13 to 16 inches)
  • Size: About the size of a Robin

The hairy woodpecker has a sharp “peek” sound similar but lower pitched to a Downy Woodpecker call. They also have a drumming call to mark or defend their territory, attract a mate, or respond to an intruder.

They are active foragers probing tree trunks and limbs, scaling off the bark, and drilling into the wood for their preferred food.

Hairy woodpeckers primarily eat insects but will also eat fruits, berries, and nuts. They will also eat suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts from bird feeders.

The hairy woodpecker is a cavity nester, so they will drill a hole in a tree to make their nest. Both the male and female take turns drilling the hole and incubating the eggs.

Females will lay between 3-6 eggs per clutch and incubate their eggs for about two weeks before the chicks hatch. 

After hatching, it takes roughly another four weeks for the chicks to fledge or grow their adult feathers and be able to fly on their own.

3. Red-breasted Sapsucker

The red-breasted sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker found along the west coast of North America. Their breeding grounds are in Canada’s British Columbia and California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. They can be seen in a small area in southern Alaska that borders British Columbia all year round.

These birds have black with white backs, and their wings have vertical white patches. Males and females have vivid red heads and breasts with a white spot between their eyes and bill.

They are primarily white with dark streaks below, and the northernmost species (Oregon upwards) has a more yellowy appearance below.

  • Length: 20-22cm (8 to 9 inches)
  • Weight: 53-63g (1.9 to 2.2 oz)
  • Wingspan: 37-40cm (14.5 to 16 inches)
  • Size: Similar in size to a Robin

The Red-breasted Sapsucker is a vocal bird whose calls consist of a nasally squeal-like “weaah” or a cat-like “meeew” sound. They also have a drumming call to mark their territory or attract a mate.

Red-breasted Sapsuckers drill into trees to feed on sap and will forage for insects on trees by probing and pecking under tree bark.

They will also catch flying insects and eat fruits and seeds when available. Not very common visitors at bird feeders but will eat suet and sunflower seeds if offered.

The Red-breasted Sapsucker is a cavity nester and prefers using dead or dying trees. Both the male and female will take turns drilling the hole and incubating the eggs.

Females will lay between 4-7 white eggs per clutch. They incubate their eggs for about two weeks before the chicks hatch. 

After hatching, it takes roughly another three weeks for the chicks to fledge or grow their adult feathers and be able to fly on their own. The parents will teach their fledglings the sap-sucking technique for one to two weeks before they leave the nest.

4. Northern Flicker

The Northern flicker is a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America and a resident of Alaska during the summer breeding months.

There are two color groups, but all have brown plumage with black bars on their wings and tails, a black crescent mark on their cheeks, and spotted underparts.

The yellow-shafted species have yellow underwings and undertail, a grey crown, red patch behind their heads, and males have a black whisker on their faces. The yellow-shafted species can be found in North America’s eastern and northern parts.

The Red-shafted species have pinkish-salmon color underwings and undertail, brown crown, lacks the red patch behind their heads, and the males have a red whisker mark on their face. The red-shafted species can be found in western North America.

  • Length: 28-31cm (about 11 to 12 inches)
  • Weight: 110-160g (3.9 to 5.6 oz)
  • Wingspan: 42-51cm (about 16.5 to 20 inches)
  • Size: Larger than a Robin but smaller than Crow

The Northern flicker has a loud “wick-a-wick-a-wick” sound. Both males and females make a loud, rapid drumming sound on trees or metal objects to mark their territories, attract mates, or warn off other Northern flickers.

Unlike most woodpeckers, Northern Flickers prefer to forage on the ground and use their long bills to dig in the ground for ants and other insects. You often see them “wicking” their bills on the ground after they catch an insect.

Northern flickers also eat fruits, berries, and nuts in the fall and winter. They will also eat suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts from bird feeders.

The Northern flicker is a cavity nester, and the male and female take turns drilling the hole and incubating the eggs.

Females will lay between 5-8 eggs per clutch and incubate their eggs for about two weeks before the chicks hatch. 

After hatching, it takes roughly another three weeks for the chicks to fledge or grow their adult feathers and be able to fly on their own.

Tip: If you want to find a Northern Flicker, look for them feeding on the ground.

5. American Three-toed Woodpecker

The American three-toed woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker found year-round in northernmost North America, predominantly in the forests of Alaska and across Canada to Newfoundland. They also inhabit areas in mainland USA along the rocky mountains.

These birds are primarily black and white above and white with fine black lines below. Their backs have white barring down the center, and males have a yellow patch on the foreheads.

  • Length: 21-23cm (8.3 to 9.1 inches)
  • Weight: 45-68g (1.6 to 2.4 oz)
  • Wingspan: 37-39cm (14.5 to 15.3 inches)
  • Size: Similar in size to a robin

The American three-toed woodpecker is a shy bird, but its call is similar to that of a Downy Woodpecker, sounding like a soft “pik” sound. They also drum on trees to mark their territory or attract a mate.

These woodpeckers eat insects and larvae primarily by chipping away at the bark of dead or decaying trees. They will also eat some fruits and sap from sapsucker holes.

The American three-toed woodpecker is a cavity nester and will excavate a new cavity hole each year. Both the male and female will take turns drilling the hole and incubating the eggs.

Females will lay between 3-6 white eggs per clutch. They incubate their eggs for about two weeks before the chicks hatch.

After hatching, it takes roughly another three weeks for the chicks to fledge or grow their adult feathers and be able to fly on their own. American three-toed woodpecker parents will teach their fledglings how to find food and avoid predators for up to six weeks.

6. Black-backed Woodpecker

Black-backed woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpecker that are found across North America. They are non-migratory, and their range stretches from Alaska to Newfoundland.

Adults have a distinctive black back and head with a single white stripe reminiscent of a mustache. Their underparts are primarily white, with some black barring on their flanks. The males have a small patch of yellow on their crowns.

  • Length: 22-23cm (about 9 inches)
  • Weight: 61-88g (2.1 to 3.1 oz)
  • Wingspan: 40-42cm (15.8 to 16.5 inches)
  • Size: Similar in size to a Robin

The black-backed woodpecker is a vocal bird whose calls consist of a sharp “pik” or “kyik” sound. Males also drum on trees as part of their territorial displays.

Black-backed woodpeckers are mostly insectivores that flake off the bark of dead trees to feed on larvae from wood-boring beetles. They also eat other insects, spiders, and some fruits and nuts when available.

The black-backed woodpecker is a cavity nester and will excavate its nest hole or use an existing one made by another species of woodpecker. Both males and females take turns excavating their nesting cavity, with the male doing most of the work.

Both the male and female will take turns incubating the eggs and raising the chicks. Females will lay between 3-4 white eggs per clutch, and both parents will incubate their eggs for about two weeks before the chicks hatch.

After hatching, it takes roughly another three weeks for the chicks to fledge or grow their adult feathers and be able to fly on their own.

7. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

The yellow-bellied sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America and can be seen in Alaska during the summer breeding months.

They are primarily black and white with a striped facewhite wing patches, and yellowish underpartsMales have a red forecrown and red throat, and females have a red forecrown and white throat.

  • Length: 18-22cm (7 to 8.5 inches)
  • Weight: 43-55g (1.5 to 1.9 oz)
  • Wingspan: 34-40cm (13 to 16 inches)
  • Size: About the size of a Robin

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has a squeal-like call that sounds like “weeah” and a cat like “meeow” call. They also make a drumming sound on trees or metal objects to warn other birds away from their territories, but it is slower and less regular than other woodpeckers.

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are unique among woodpeckers in that they drink the sap of trees. They make small holes in the bark of trees and return to these holes to feed on the sap and the insects attracted to it.

They also eat flying insects, fruits, and seeds. In the winter, they will also eat suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts from bird feeders.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a cavity nester. The male and female take turns drilling the hole and incubating the eggs.

Females will lay between 3-7 eggs per clutch and incubate them for about two weeks before the chicks hatch. 

After hatching, it takes roughly another three weeks for the chicks to fledge or grow their adult feathers and be able to fly on their own. Before the fledglings leave the nest, their parents teach them the sapsucking technique.

8. Lewis’s Woodpecker

Lewis’s woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers found in western North America. They are rarely seen in Alaska but would most likely be seen during the summer breeding months.

These birds have glossy greenish-black upper parts with a pale gray breast band that wraps around the neck. Their bellies are a pinkish color, and their face is a deep red color.

  • Length: 26-28cm (10 to 11 inches)
  • Weight: 88-138g (3 to 4.9 oz)
  • Wingspan: 38-43cm (15 to 17 inches)
  • Size: Larger than a Robin but smaller than a Crow

Lewis’s woodpeckers are not as vocal as other woodpeckers but have soft calls consisting of a short but harsh “chur” sound and a clicky “yick” sound. Males will also drum on trees during courtship.

Lewis’s woodpeckers are acrobatic birds that can be seen perched high in the trees or circling high in the air. 

They are aerial foragers, meaning they prefer to catch their food in flight by either swooping down to catch insects on the ground or by gleaning insects from trees. 

They will also eat fruits, nuts, and berries when available.

Lewis’s woodpeckers are cavity nesters and will use the same nest cavity each year.

Females will lay between 6-7 white eggs per clutch. They incubate their eggs for about two weeks before the chicks hatch. 

After hatching, it takes roughly another five weeks for the chicks to fledge or grow their adult feathers and be able to fly on their own.

9. Great Spotted Woodpecker

The great spotted woodpecker is a member of the woodpecker family found in woods throughout Europe and Asia. They are also non-migratory birds and will stay in their territories year-round. 

They have also been seen in the Aleutian Islands, Pribilof Islands, and Alaska and are considered vagrants and not a typically common species in North America.

These birds are black above and white below with red undertail. They have a white stripe running down their wings and white wings bars.

They have an oval white patch over their eyes and cheeks, and males have a red patch on the back of their heads.

  • Length: 20-24cm (7.9 to 9.4 inches)
  • Weight: 70-98g (2.5 to 3.5 oz)
  • Wingspan: 34-39cm (13 to 15 inches)
  • Size: Slightly larger than a Robin but smaller than a crow

The Great Spotted Woodpecker’s call consists of a sharp “kik” sound. They also have a drumming call to mark their territory or attract a mate. Males do more drumming than females, and it is usually done on dead trees or manufactured structures.

Great Spotted Woodpeckers are omnivores but primarily eat insects, such as beetle larvae, spiders, and ants. They can supplement their diet with other invertebrates, carrion (dead animals), and plants that offer fatty, rich food such as nuts and seeds.

They will also visit bird feeders that offer suet, sunflowers seeds, or peanuts.

The Great Spotted Woodpecker is a cavity nester and will excavate a new hole each year. Both the male and female will take turns drilling the hole and incubating the eggs.

Females will lay between 4-6 white eggs per clutch. They incubate their eggs for about two weeks before the chicks hatch.

After hatching, it takes roughly another three weeks for the chicks to fledge or grow their adult feathers and be able to fly on their own.

10. Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated woodpecker is the largest woodpecker found in North America and is rarely seen in Alaska. 

They are primarily black all over with white stripes running down their necks and wings and have a red crest on their heads. The males also have a red forecrown and red whisker near their bills, while the females have a black forecrown and black whisker.

  • Length: 40-49cm (about 16 to 20 inches)
  • Weight: 250-350g (8.8 to 12 oz)
  • Wingspan: 66-75cm (29 to 30 inches)
  • Size: Large; about the size of a crow

The Pileated woodpecker has a loud, echoing “kuk” sound similar to laughter. Both males and females drum on trees to mark their territories, attract mates, or warn off other Pileated woodpeckers.

They are powerful foragers that use their long bills to chisel away at tree bark to find their favorite food – insects

Their chiseling leaves extensive excavations in trees that provide shelter for other smaller birds and mammals.

Pileated woodpeckers also eat fruits, berries, and nuts. They will also eat suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts from bird feeders.

Like other woodpeckers, the Pileated woodpecker is a cavity nester, and the male and female take turns drilling the hole and incubating the eggs.

Females will lay between 3-5 eggs per clutch and incubate their eggs for about three weeks before the chicks hatch. 

After hatching, it takes roughly another four weeks for the chicks to fledge or grow their adult feathers and be able to fly on their own.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What kind of woodpeckers live in Alaska?

Alaska has ten woodpeckers, but the most commonly seen species are the Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-breasted Woodpecker, and Northern Flicker.

Do woodpeckers migrate from Alaska?

Most of the Alaskan Woodpeckers are non-migratory and stay in the state all year round, except for the Northern Flicker and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, who spend their breeding months in Alaska and migrate out of state during the winter months.

What Is The Largest Woodpecker In Alaska?

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest in Alaska, albeit rarely seen.

What Is The Smallest Woodpecker In Alaska?

The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest in Alaska.

Keep an eye out for the Woodpeckers of Alaska

Alaska is an ideal region for Woodpeckers due to its various types of habitat, large trees, and an abundance of insects. Woodpeckers benefit Alaska as they help control the insect population, and their excavations provide homes for other animals.

If you are lucky enough to see a woodpecker in Alaska, take note of its size and coloration, and call to help identify which species you have spotted!

If you have questions about identifying more species or finding out which ones live near you, let us know! We would love to help identify new bird species for our readers.

Be sure to keep an eye out for these fantastic birds the next time you’re in Alaska.

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I am an avid birdwatcher with a passion for learning all I can about these fantastic creatures. I love finding new species of birds in my backyard, neighborhood, or when I travel. I enjoy sharing everything I learn about how these creatures live their lives; feedback and experience is much appreciated!

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