8 Fantastic Woodpeckers of Alabama plus one you will rarely see

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Woodpeckers of Alabama

Woodpeckers are one of the most fascinating bird species in Alabama. The Woodpeckers of Alabama thrive in the state because they have access to ample food and diverse habitats.

You can always tell when a woodpecker is nearby, listening for their calls and drumming on trees. You may even see them at your backyard bird feeders, feeding on sunflower seeds or suet.

In this article, we will discuss nine different Woodpecker species found in Alabama. We will also provide information on identifying these 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.

Alabama Woodpeckers

According to the latest data from ebird, there are eight observed species of Woodpeckers in Alabama. The ninth species is scarce and entirely possibly extinct. This data has been collected from over 12,000 dedicated bird watchers throughout Alabama.

Here are some quick facts:

  • The Red-bellied Woodpecker is the most common Woodpecker in Alabama
  • The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is the least common Woodpecker in Alabama
  • The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest Woodpecker in Alabama
  • The Down Woodpecker is the smallest Woodpecker in Alabama
  • The Red-bellied Woodpecker and Downy Woodpeckers are the two species most likely to visit your backyard bird feeders
  • The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is the rarest Woodpecker in Alabama (entirely possibly extinct!)

The nine types of Woodpeckers in Alabama

1. Red-bellied Woodpecker

The red-bellied Woodpecker is a mid-sized woodpecker found in the eastern United States. They are non-migratory and can be seen in Alabama 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

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.

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 non-migratory, and will stay in their territories year-round. They can be seen in Alabama 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.

3. Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest Woodpecker found in North America. They are non-migratory and can be seen in Alabama 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.

4. Northern Flicker

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

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.

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

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.

5. Red-headed Woodpecker

The red-headed Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America and can be seen in Alabama all year round.

They are all black with a white chest and bellywhite 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.

6. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

The yellow-bellied sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America and can be seen in Alabama during the non-breeding winter 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.

7. 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 Alabama 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.

8. Red-cockaded Woodpecker

The red-cockaded Woodpecker is a small woodpecker found in the southeastern United States. They can be seen in central and southern Alabama all year round.

They are primarily black and white with a white cheek patch and visible black and white bars on the backsMales 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

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.

9. Ivory-billed Woodpecker is the rarest and possibly extinct

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is/was the largest Woodpecker in North America. It is found in forests in the southeastern United States and is thought to be endangered or possibly extinct. If these large woodpeckers are still around, they could be seen in Alabama all year round.

Ivory-billed woodpeckers are primarily black, with two white stripes running down the sides of the neck and back. Males and females have a large, creamy white (Ivory) bill and a large crest. Males have a red crest, and females have a black crest.

  • Length: 46-51cm (18 to 20 inches)
  • Weight: 450-570g (16 to 20oz)
  • Wingspan: 76-80cm (30 to 31.5 inches)
  • Size: A little larger than a crow

Ivory-billed woodpeckers primarily eat insects, with large beetle larvae being its primary food source.

The ivory-billed Woodpecker is believed to be a cavity nester with nesting behavior similar to the Pileated Woodpecker. Both the male and female will take turns drilling the hole and incubating the eggs.

It is thought that the females would lay between 1-5 white eggs per clutch, and both parents would incubate their eggs for about three weeks before the chicks hatch.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What kind of woodpeckers live in Alabama?

There are nine woodpecker species that have been documented in Alabama: the Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, and the very rare, possibly extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

Are pileated woodpeckers in Alabama?

Pileated Woodpeckers are one of the more common woodpeckers of Alabama (9% frequency).

Are Red-Headed Woodpeckers In Alabama?

Red-headed Woodpeckers can be seen in Alabama all year round and is one of the more comon woodpeckers of Alabama (8% frequency).

What is the largest Woodpecker in Alabama?

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest Woodpecker in Alabama.

What is the smallest Woodpecker in Alabama?

The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest Woodpecker in Alabama.

Keep an eye out for the Woodpeckers of Alabama

Woodpeckers are an essential part of the Alabama ecosystem. They help control insect populations, and their cavity nesting habits help other animals find homes. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a rare Ivory-billed Woodpecker!

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 Alabama.

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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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