The 8 most common Woodpeckers of Arizona and 7 that are scarcely seen

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Woodpeckers of Arizona

Woodpeckers have long been a common sight in Arizona. The Woodpeckers of Arizona are well-suited for the arid climate and can be found throughout the state.

Woodpeckers can be identified by their characteristic markings, calls, and behavior. Woodpecker enthusiasts can increase their chances of spotting woodpeckers by learning about their habits and habitats.

Eight species of woodpeckers are commonly seen in Arizona, and a further seven are not so widely seen or observed.

The most common woodpeckers in Arizona

The most common woodpeckers in Arizona include the Gila Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, and the Acorn Woodpecker. Less common Woodpeckers in Arizona include the American three-toed Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, and the Red-headed woodpecker.

In this article, we will discuss 15 different Woodpecker species found in Arizona. 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.

Arizona Woodpeckers

According to the latest data from ebird, there are fifteen observed species of Woodpeckers in Arizona. The first eight species are common, and the last seven are more scarce and less likely to be seen. This data has been collected from over 36,000 dedicated bird watchers throughout Arizona.

Here are some quick facts:

15 Types Of Woodpeckers In Arizona

1. Gila Woodpecker

Gila Woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers found in the southwestern United States and Mexico, and can be seen in the southern half of Arizona all year round.

These birds are grayish-brown with black and white barring on their backs and wings. Their belly is a light yellow color, and males have red caps.

  • Length: 22-24cm (8.7 to 9.4 inches)
  • Weight: 51-79g (1.8 to 2.8 oz)
  • Wingspan: 40-42cm (16 to 16.5 inches)
  • Size: Larger than a Robin but smaller than a Crow

Gila woodpeckers are vocal and have high-pitched “piik” calls used by both sexes.

Gila woodpeckers are omnivores that forage on tree trunks and cacti. Unlike most woodpeckers, they don’t do much drilling for food but instead probe and glean at the surface of trees and cacti.

They eat various insects, fruit, berries, nectar, seeds, small mammals, and birds if available.

Gila woodpeckers are cavity nesters and may use the same nest cavity each year.

Females will lay between 3-5 white eggs per clutch. Both parents 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.

2. Ladder-backed Woodpecker

The ladder-backed woodpecker is a small woodpecker found in the southwestern United States. They are non-migratory and can be seen in Arizona all year round.

They have black and white plumage with black bars on their backs, wings, and tails, and buff underparts with black spots. The black and white pattern resembles that of a ladder, hence their name “ladder-backed.” 

The male has a red crown with black and white spots near the front of their bill, whereas the female has only a black crown.

  • Length: 16-18cm (6 to 7 inches)
  • Weight: 21-48g (0.7 to 1.7 ounces)
  • Wingspan: 32-34cm (about 13 inches)
  • Size: Smaller than a Robin but larger than a Sparrow

The ladder-backed woodpecker has a loud “peek” sound. These small woodpeckers will drum on trees to mark their territories.

They are acrobatic foragers that rarely drill into trees to find their food but prefer to probe and glean insects from trees, cacti, and other desert foliage.

These woodpeckers primarily eat insects but will also eat fruits and seeds from desert foliage such as cacti. They will also eat suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts from bird feeders.

The ladder-backed woodpecker is a cavity nester, which means they drill a hole in a desert tree to make their nest. Both the male and female take turns drilling the hole and incubate the eggs.

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

3. Northern Flicker

The Northern flicker is a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America and can be seen in the northern half of Arizona all year round.

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.

4. Acorn Woodpecker

The Acorn Woodpecker is a small to medium-sized woodpecker found along the west coast of North America to central Mexico. They can be seen in western Arizona all year round.

These birds are primarily black above with striking black and white patterned faces. Their belly is white with fine black lines. Males and females have red crowns, but males have more red than females.

  • Length: 19-23cm (7.5 to 9 inches)
  • Weight: 65-90g (2.3 to 3.2 oz)
  • Wingspan: 35-43cm (13.8 to 17 inches)
  • Size: About the size of a Robin

Acorn woodpeckers are gregarious birds that live in small groups or “clans” of up to 20 individuals. These clans often share a large territory and cooperate in raising their young.

Acorn woodpeckers are mainly insectivores, meaning they primarily eat insects. However, they will also eat nuts stored in the fall and winter.

One of the Acorn Woodpecker’s most unusual behaviors is their caching or storing of food. They will collect acorns and other nuts and keep them in cache sites they excavate in trees

These cache sites can contain tens of thousands of nuts and serve as an essential food source for the acorn woodpecker during lean times.

Acorn woodpeckers are cavity nesters and will excavate their nest hole in either a dead tree or a dead branch of a live tree. Both parents and other group members will take turns excavating a cavity.

Females will lay between 3-7 white eggs per clutch, and both parents will incubate their eggs for about two weeks before the chicks hatch. Other group members will help incubate the eggs from time to time.

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

The hairy woodpecker is a mid-sized woodpecker found in the eastern United States. They are non-migratory and are year-round residents of Arizona.

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.

6. Gilded Flicker

The Gilded Flicker is a medium-sized woodpecker found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. They can be seen in southern Arizona all year round.

These birds are brownish-gray with a black crescent on their chests and black spots on their breast and belly.

They have fine black barring on their back and a rusty-cinnamon-colored crown and nape. Their wings flash yellow during flight, and the males have a red mustache (malar).

  • Length: 28cm (11 inches)
  • Weight: 92-129g (3.3 to 4.5 oz)
  • Wingspan: 50-52cm (19 to 20.5 inches)
  • Size: Larger than a Robin but smaller than the Northern Flicker

The Gilded Flicker is a vocal bird whose calls resemble the Northern Flicker, albeit with a more high-pitched “klee-ye” and “wick wick” sounds. They also have a drumming call to mark their territory or attract a mate.

Gilded flickers are primarily ground foragers that can be seen hopping on the ground, looking for ants and other insects. They mainly eat insects but will also eat fruits, berries, nuts, and seeds.

The gilded flicker is a cavity nester and typically uses dead trees to make its nest. 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 four weeks for the chicks to fledge or grow their adult feathers and be able to fly on their own.

7. Arizona Woodpecker

The Arizona woodpecker is a small woodpecker found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. These small woodpeckers can be seen in the southeast corner of Arizona all year round.

These birds are brown above and white with black spots below. Males and females have a white cheek patch, and males have a red spot on the back of their heads.

  • Length: 18-20cm (7 to 8 inches)
  • Weight: 34-51g (1.2 to 1.8 oz)
  • Wingspan: 36cm (about 14 inches)
  • Size: Similar in size to a Robin

Arizona woodpeckers are vocal birds whose calls have a loud “pik” sound similar to the Hairy Woodpecker. Both males and females have a rapid drumming call to mark their territory or attract a mate.

Arizona woodpeckers are bark forages and can be seen picking, flicking, and scaling off the bark in dead or live trees to find insects.

They primarily eat insects but will also eat berries, fruits, and acorns when available.

Arizona woodpeckers are cavity nesters; males and females take turns excavating the hole.

Females will lay between 3-4 white eggs per clutch. Both sexes will 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.

8. Red-naped Sapsucker

The red-naped sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker found in western North America. These beautiful woodpeckers spend their winters in southern Arizona and their summers in northern Arizona.

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.

9. Lewis’s Woodpecker

Lewis’s woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers found in western North America. They are year-round residents of northern Arizona and winter residents of southern Arizona.

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.

10. Williamson’s Sapsucker

The Williamson’s sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker found in the western United States. They can be seen in northeast Arizona in the summer, year-round in central Arizona, and in southeast Arizona during the winter 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.

11. 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 northeast Arizona 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.

12. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

The yellow-bellied sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America. They are scarce in Arizona but may be seen during the winter months.

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.

13. 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 small areas of central Arizona 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.

14. 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 along California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. They are scarce in Arizona but may be seen in western Arizona 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.

15. Red-headed Woodpecker

The red-headed woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America. They are scarce in Arizona but may be seen in eastern Arizona during the non-breeding winter 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.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What kind of woodpeckers live in Arizona?

Arizona is home to fifteen species of Woodpeckers. Eight species are commonly seen and seven are more rare and less likely to be seen. The most common species are the Gila Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Acorn Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Gilded Flicker, Arizona Woodpecker and the Red-naped Sapsucker.

What Is The Largest Woodpecker In Arizona?

The Northern Flicker is the largest in Arizona.

What Is The Smallest Woodpecker In Arizona?

The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest in Arizona.

Keep an eye out for the Woodpeckers of arizona

Woodpeckers are an essential part of the Arizona ecosystem. Woodpeckers play a role in seed dispersal and help control insect populations. Woodpecker enthusiasts can enjoy the beauty and diversity of these birds by learning about their habits and habitats.

This guide provides information on 15 different Woodpecker species found in Arizona, from the most common to the least widely seen. We hope this guide will help you identify and appreciate the Woodpeckers in your area.

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 Arizona.

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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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