Discover These 8 Exciting Woodpeckers in Wisconsin

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Woodpeckers in Wisconsin

Woodpeckers in Wisconsin are some of the most fascinating and unique birds in the state. These birds are famous for their distinct tapping sounds and are found in various habitats across Wisconsin, from urban parks to deep forests. 

What Are The Most Common Woodpeckers In Wisconsin?

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

Residents can see eight types of woodpeckers in Wisconsin throughout the year. Of the eight woodpeckers in the state, the first five are more likely to be seen than the last three, and all but two can be seen in the state all year round.

The five most observed woodpecker species often visit backyard feeders and gardens in Wisconsin.

Whether you are an experienced birdwatcher or just starting, exploring the world of woodpeckers can be an exciting and rewarding experience. 

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

Wisconsin Woodpeckers

According to the latest data from ebird, there are eight observed species of Woodpeckers in Wisconsin. This data has been collected from over 29,600 dedicated bird watchers throughout the state.

Here are some quick facts:

  • Downy Woodpeckers are the most common in Wisconsin
  • Black-backed Woodpeckers are the least widely observed species in Wisconsin
  • Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest in Wisconsin
  • Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest in Wisconsin
  • Downy Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, and Pileated Woodpeckers are common backyard birds in Wisconsin and can be seen visiting backyard bird feeders throughout the state.

8 Types Of Woodpeckers In Wisconsin

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, are non-migratory, and can be seen in Wisconsin 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 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. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are a medium-sized woodpeckers seen in the eastern United States. They are non-migratory and are year-round residents of Wisconsin.

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 also eat suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts from bird feeders.

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.

3. Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers seen throughout the United States. They are non-migratory and can be seen in Wisconsin 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 are about the same size as 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

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. Northern Flicker

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

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
  • Northern Flicker Scientific Name: Colaptes auratus

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. Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker found in North America and is a year-round resident of Wisconsin.

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 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.

6. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are medium-sized woodpeckers seen across North America. They can be seen in Wisconsin during the summer and spring 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 medium-sized woodpeckers found across North America. They can be seen along Wisconsin’s southern border all year round and in the rest of the state during the summer and spring breeding season.

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. 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 the northern half of Wisconsin 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
  • Black-backed Woodpecker Scientific Name: Picoides arcticus

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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Kind Of Woodpeckers Are In Wisconsin?

Eight kinds of woodpecker species live in Wisconsin. These include the Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Black-backed Woodpecker.

Are red-headed woodpeckers rare in Wisconsin?

Red-headed Woodpeckers are not rare in Wisconsin, but they are less common than other woodpecker species. They can be seen in most of Wisconsin during the summer breeding season.

Are pileated woodpeckers found in Wisconsin?

Yes, pileated woodpeckers are found in Wisconsin. They are usually seen in dense forests and backyards around Wisconsin all year round.

What are the biggest woodpeckers in Wisconsin?

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest in Wisconsin.

What Is The Smallest Woodpecker In Wisconsin?

The Downy Woodpecker is the Smallest in Wisconsin.

Keep An Eye Out For The Woodpeckers Of Wisconsin

Wisconsin has eight species of woodpeckers, each with unique characteristics and behaviors. From the smallest Downy Woodpecker to the largest Pileated Woodpecker, these birds are beautiful creatures that add some of nature’s beauty to Wisconsin’s forests and backyards.

Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or just someone who enjoys learning about nature, taking some time to learn about the eight kinds of woodpeckers that live in Wisconsin will provide you with hours of entertainment and education.

We hope this article has provided all the information you need. If you have questions about identifying more species of birds in Wisconsin or finding out which ones live near you, let us know! We would love to help identify new bird species for our readers.

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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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