Discover 8 Woodpeckers in Virginia to spot

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Woodpeckers in Virgina

Woodpeckers in Virginia are a captivating group of birds that never fail to amaze birdwatchers with their unique characteristics. These birds are truly a sight, from their fascinating beaks to their calls and drumming sounds. Woodpeckers are among the most exciting species for daily birdwatchers in Virginia.

What Are The Most Common Woodpeckers In Virginia?

The most common woodpeckers in Virginia include the Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

Residents can see eight species of woodpeckers in Virginia throughout the year. Of the eight woodpeckers in Virginia, the first two are more likely to be seen than the last six, and all but one can be seen in the state all year round.

The two most observed woodpecker species are often seen in Virginia’s gardens and backyard feeders.

Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or just curious about what kind of woodpecker species live in your area, here’s all you need to know about the Woodpeckers of Virginia.

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

Virginia Woodpeckers

According to the latest data from ebird, there are eight observed species of Woodpeckers in Virginia. This data has been collected from over 38,300 dedicated bird watchers throughout the state.

Here are some quick facts:

  • Red-bellied Woodpeckers are the most common woodpeckers in Virginia
  • Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are the least widely observed species in Virginia
  • Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest in Virginia
  • Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest in Virginia
  • Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Downy Woodpeckers are common backyard birds in Virginia and can be seen visiting backyard bird feeders throughout the state.

8 Types Of Woodpeckers In Virginia

1. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are a medium-sized woodpecker found in the eastern United States. They are non-migratory and can be seen in Virginia all year round.

These birds have black with white stripes running down their backs and wings. The males have red running from their bill to the back of their heads, while the females only have red on the back of their heads. 

Both males and females are white below, and the belly of these birds is typically a pale pink or salmon color.

  • Length: 23-25cm (9 to 10 inches)
  • Weight: 56-91g (2 to 3 oz)
  • Wingspan: 33-42cm (13 to 17 inches)
  • Size: Larger than a Robin but smaller than a Crow
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker scientific name: Melanerpes Carolinus

The red-bellied woodpecker is also a very vocal bird, and its calls consist of a shrill, rolling “kwirr” sound. They also have a coughing “cha cha cha” call used to mark their territory or attract a mate.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers rarely drill into trees to find their food but instead forage for food from trees, the ground, and the air.

Red-bellied woodpeckers primarily eat insects but will also eat fruits, berries, and nuts. They will visit backyard feeders that offer suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is a cavity nester, so 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 4-5 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.

2. Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest member of the woodpecker family in North America. They are found in wooded areas throughout North America, are non-migratory, and can be seen in Virginia 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
  • Downy Woodpecker Scientific name: Picoidis pubescens

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 backyard 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. Northern Flicker

Northern Flickers are medium-sized woodpeckers found across North America and is a year-round resident of Virginia.

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 Northern Flicker has 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
  • Northern Flicker Scientific Name: Colaptes auratus

Northern flickers have 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 backyard 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.

4. Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker found in North America and can be seen in Virginia 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
  • Pileated Woodpecker Scientific Name: Dryocopus pileatus

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, carpenter ants, and bark beetle larvae.

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.

5. Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers found in the throughout the United States. They are non-migratory and are year-round residents of Virginia.

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
  • Hairy Woodpecker Scientific Name: Picoides villosus

Hairy woodpeckers have 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.

6. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are medium-sized woodpeckers found across North America. They can be seen in Virginia during the colder non-breeding season.

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
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Scientific Name: Sphyrapicus varius

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 tree 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.

7. Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpeckers are a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America and are year-round residents of Virginia.

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
  • Red-headed Woodpecker Scientific Name: Melanerpes erythrocepphalus

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 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.

8. Red-cockaded Woodpecker

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is a small woodpecker found in the southeastern United States. They are the least observed species in Virginia and can be seen in the state’s eastern half all year round.

They are primarily black and white with a white cheek patch and visible black and white bars on the backs. Males have a small red streak (“Cockade”) at the top of their white cheek patches.

  • Length: 20-23cm (7.9 to 9.1 inches)
  • Weight: 42-52g (1.5 to 1.8 oz)
  • Wingspan: 36cm (about 14 inches)
  • Size: About the size of a Robin
  • Red-coackaded Woodpecker Scientific Name: Picoides borealis

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker uses a high-pitched “tsick or sklit” call which sounds raspy when it has been disturbed, and also has a rough “sripp or churt” call heard when nesting.

Red-cockaded woodpeckers primarily eat insects such as ants, cockroaches, termites, and beetles but will also eat wild fruit and seeds. Very rarely seen at bird feeders but may eat suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts if given a chance.

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

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers also drill extra holes around their nest cavity to protect their nests from climbing snakes. The extra holes cause the tree to leak sap, making it difficult for the snakes to reach the nest.

Females will lay between 3-4 eggs per clutch and incubate them 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.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Kind Of Woodpeckers Live In Virginia?

Eight kinds of woodpecker species live in Virginia. The most common woodpeckers include the Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

Are Pileated Woodpeckers in Virginia?

Yes, Pileated Woodpeckers are found in Virginia. They are the largest Woodpecker species in Virginia and can be seen all year round throughout the state.

Are There Red-headed Woodpeckers In Virginia?

Yes, Red-headed Woodpeckers can be found in Virginia. They are less frequent than the other Woodpecker species, but they can be seen all year round near rivers, wetlands, and wooded areas.

What’s The Biggest Woodpecker In Virginia?

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest in Virginia.

What Is The Smallest Woodpecker In Virginia?

The Downy Woodpecker is the Smallest in Virginia.

Keep An Eye Out For Woodpeckers In Virginia

Virginia is home to eight species of woodpeckers, from the small Downy Woodpecker to the largest Pileated Woodpecker. Of these, Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Downy Woodpeckers are seen most often in gardens and backyard bird feeders across the state. 

The Northern Flicker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Red-cockaded Woodpecker are also found in Virginia but are less observed.

Woodpeckers are truly a sight to behold with their unique characteristics, such as their bright colors, powerful beaks, and drumming sounds that can pierce through a forest’s silence.

Whether you’re a bird-watching enthusiast or just curious about the species of Woodpeckers that can reside in Virginia, we hope this article has provided all the information you need.

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

So keep your eyes peeled and take out your binoculars; you never know when one of these woodpeckers might appear!

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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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