Discover 11 Beautiful Woodpeckers in Montana to see and hear

Last Updated on

Woodpeckers in Montana

Woodpeckers are one of the most fascinating and unique families of birds in Montana. There are eleven different species to be found throughout the state, each with its unique appearance and behavior. Woodpeckers can be found in various habitats in Montana, from forests to urban areas, and they play an essential role in the ecosystems they inhabit.

Of the eleven woodpeckers in Montana, the first three are more observed than the last eight, and seven can be seen in the state all year round. The three most observed species are often seen in backyards and at bird feeders around Montana.

What Are The Most Common Woodpeckers In Montana?

The most common woodpeckers in Montana include the Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Pileated Woodpecker and Lewis’s Woodpecker.

This post will explore the eleven woodpecker species in Montana and highlight their unique characteristics, such as size, calls, plumage, and feeding behavior.

We have organized our list from most likely seen to the least likely to be seen for your convenience.

Montana Woodpeckers

According to the latest data from ebird, there are eleven observed species of Woodpeckers in Montana. This data has been collected from over 14,800 dedicated bird watchers throughout Montana.

Here are some quick facts:

  • The Northern Flicker is the most commonly observed Woodpecker in Montana
  • The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the least widely observed Woodpecker in Montana
  • The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest Woodpecker in Montana
  • The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest Woodpecker in Montana
  • The Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, and Hairy Woodpecker are common backyard birds of Montana and are most likely to visit your bird feeders.

11 Types Of Woodpeckers In Montana

1. Northern Flicker

The Northern Flicker is a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America and is a year-round resident of Montana.

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 face. 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.

2. 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 is a year-round resident of Montana.

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.

3. 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 Montana 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.

4. Red-naped Sapsucker

The Red-naped Sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker found in western North America. They can be seen in the western half of Montana during the summer and spring breeding months.

These birds are black with white stripes on their back and wings. They have a reddish cap, nape, and throat. Males have a full red throat, and females have some white feathers under their throats.

  • Length: 19-21cm (7.5 to 8.3 inches)
  • Weight: 32-66g (1.1 to 2.4 oz)
  • Wingspan: 41-43cm (16 to 17 inches)
  • Size: Similar in size to a Robin

The red-naped sapsucker is a very vocal bird, and their calls consist of a whining “waa waa” sound, and a harsher “waa” sound used to alert their mates. They also have a drumming call to mark their territory or attract a mate.

Red-naped sapsuckers primarily eat sap and insects. They drill small holes in trees to get to the sap, which they drink with their long tongues. They will also eat the insects that are attracted to the sap.

Their diet also includes fruits and berries when available.

Red-naped sapsuckers are cavity nesters, 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 4-7 white eggs per clutch. They 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. The parents will use this time to teach them the sapsucking technique before they leave the nest.

5. Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker found in North America and can be seen on the western edge of Montana all year round.

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.

6. Lewis’s Woodpecker

Lewis’s Woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers found in western North America. They can be seen in the south and western regions of Montana 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.

7. American Three-toed Woodpecker

The American three-toed Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker found 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.

They can be seen in western Montana all year round.

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.

8. Williamson’s Sapsucker

The Williamson’s Sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker found in the western United States. They can be seen in western Montana during the summer and spring breeding months.

Male Williamson’s Sapsuckers are primarily black above with two white stripes on their face, white wing patches, red throat, and a yellow belly.

Female Williamson’s Sapsuckers have black and white barring on their back, a grayish-brown head, a black breast patch, and a yellow belly.

  • Length: 21-25cm (8.3 to 9.8 inches)
  • Weight: 44-55g (1.6 to 1.9 oz)
  • Wingspan: 43cm (17 inches)
  • Size: About the size of a Robin

The Williamson’s sapsucker is a vocal bird that makes a harsh “chyaah” sound, and both males and females drum on trees to mark territory and attract mates. Drumming is similar to other Sapsuckers but is slower and more regular.

Williamson’s sapsuckers are bark foragers who primarily eat insects and sap but will also eat fruits and berries when available.

They drill holes in trees and then return to the holes throughout the day to get to the sap, and the insects that are attracted to it.

Williamson’s sapsuckers are cavity nesters, and the male typically excavates a new hole each year to make their nest.

Females will lay between 4-5 white eggs per clutch, and both male and female will 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.

9. Black-backed Woodpecker

Black-backed Woodpeckers are a medium-sized woodpecker that is found across North America. They are non-migratory and their range stretches from Alaska to Newfoundland. They can be seen in western Montana all year round.

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 and 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.

10. Red-headed Woodpecker

The Red-headed Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America and can be seen in eastern Montana during the summer breeding months.

They are all black with a white chest and belly, white patches on their wings, and a red head, neck, and throat.

Males and females look alike, but juveniles have brownish heads without a red hue.

  • Length: 19-23cm (7.5 to 9 inches)
  • Weight: 56-91g (2 to 3.2 oz)
  • Wingspan: 42cm (16.5 inches)
  • Size: Larger than a Robin but smaller than Crow

The Red-headed woodpecker has a shrill “tchur” call, similar to that of a Red-bellied Woodpecker but with a higher pitch. They also drum on trees or metal objects to warn off other birds.

Red-headed woodpeckers are omnivores and are adept at catching flying insects such as moths and grasshoppers while in flight. They will also eat fruits, berries, and nuts in the fall and winter. They will also eat suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts from bird feeders.

The Red-headed Woodpecker is one of the few woodpeckers that store food in crevices for later feeding.

The red-headed woodpecker is a cavity nester, and the male and female take turns drilling the hole and incubating the eggs.

Females will lay between 4-7 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.

11. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America. They are the least observed species of woodpecker in Montana and can only be seen on the eastern edge of the state during their summer and winter migration period.

They are primarily black and white with a striped face, white wing patches, and yellowish underparts. Males 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.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Kind Of Woodpeckers Are In Montana?

There are eleven observed woodpeckers in Montana which include the Flickers, Sapsuckers and Woodpecker species. The most common include the Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Pileated Woodpecker and Lewis’s Woodpecker.

What Is The Largest Woodpecker In Montana?

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in Montana.

What Is The Smallest Woodpecker In Montana?

The Downy Woodpecker is the Smallest woodpecker in Montana.

Are there pileated woodpeckers in Montana?

Yes, there are Pileated Woodpeckers in Montana. They are the fifth most observed species of woodpecker in Montana and can be seen all year round in the state.

Keep an eye out for woodpeckers in Montana

Woodpeckers are fascinating and essential birds found throughout Montana. There are eleven species of Woodpecker in the state, with three commonly seen around backyards and bird feeders. Each Woodpecker has its own unique size, call, plumage, and feeding behavior which makes them both interesting to watch and beneficial to the environments they inhabit.

Whether you are interested in identifying birds at your backyard feeder or observing Woodpeckers in their natural habitat, this list will help you identify the many woodpeckers of Montana.

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

Happy Birding!

Photo of author
Author
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!

Leave a Comment