16 Exciting Woodpeckers of Colorado to spot

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Woodpeckers of Colorado

Woodpeckers are a common sight in Colorado, where they can be found in wooded areas and along the edges of forests and backyards.

Woodpeckers are exciting birds and play an essential role in the ecology of forests. Woodpeckers are known for their distinctive pecking sound, as well as their unique coloring and markings.

Several species of woodpecker live in Colorado, with three being common and ten being more scarce and less likely to be observed.

What are The most common woodpeckers in Colorado?

The most common woodpeckers in Colorado include the Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, and the Hairy Woodpecker. Less common Woodpeckers in Colorado include the Red-breasted Sapsucker, Acorn Woodpecker, and the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

This article will discuss thirteen different Woodpecker species found in Colorado. 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.

Colorado Woodpeckers

According to the latest data from ebird, there are thirteen observed species of Woodpeckers in Colorado. The first three species are common, and the last ten are more scarce and less likely to be seen. This data has been collected from over 34,000 dedicated bird watchers throughout Colorado.

Here are some quick facts:

  • The Northern Flicker is the most common Woodpecker in Colorado
  • The Red-breasted Sapsucker is the least common Woodpecker in Colorado
  • The Northern Flicker is the largest Woodpecker in Colorado
  • The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest Woodpecker in Colorado
  • The Northern Flicker and the Downy Woodpecker are common backyard birds of Colorado and the species most likely to visit your bird feeders.

13 Types Of Woodpeckers In Colorado

1. Northern Flicker

The Northern flicker is a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America and is the most common common woodpecker of Colorado. They can be seen in the state 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.

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 Colorado 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. 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 Colorado 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 western Colorado during the warmer 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. Lewis’s Woodpecker

Lewis’s woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers found in western North America. They are scarcely observed in Colorado but may be seen in western half of the state all year round.

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.

6. Williamson’s Sapsucker

The Williamson’s sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker found in the western United States. They scarcely observed in the state but may be seen in western Colorado during the warmer 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.

7. Red-headed Woodpecker

The red-headed woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America. They are scarcely observed in Colorado but may be seen in the eastern half of the state during the warmer 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.

8. 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 and can be seen in western Colorado 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.

9. 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 the southeastern edge of Colorado 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. 

10. 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 the northeastern edge of Colorado 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.

11. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

The yellow-bellied sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America. They are scarcely seen in Colorado but may be seen on the eastern edge of the state during the migration and 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.

12. Acorn Woodpecker

The Acorn Woodpecker is a small to medium-sized woodpecker found along the west coast of North America to central Mexico. Scarcely seen in Colorado but may be seen in the southwestern edge of the state 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.

13. 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.

Extremely rare sight in Colorado but has been seen by some birdwatchers in late winter or early spring.

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.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What kind of woodpeckers are in Colorado?

There are thirteen observed species of woodpeckers in Colorado. The most common include the Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, and the Hairy Woodpecker. The least common woodpeckers in Colorado include the Red-breasted Sapsucker, Acorn Woodpecker, and the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

What Is The Largest Woodpecker In Colorado?

The largest observed species of woodpecker in Colorado is the northern Flicker.

What Is The Smallest Woodpecker In Colorado?

The smallest woodpecker in Colorado is the Downy Woodpecker.

Keep an Eye out for the Woodpeckers of Colorado

Woodpeckers are an essential part of the Colorado ecosystem and play a vital role in the forest. Woodpeckers are exciting birds that are known for their distinctive pecking sound, as well as their unique coloring and markings.

There are thirteen Woodpecker species found in Colorado, with the Northern Flicker being the most common. Woodpeckers can be found in wooded areas and along the edges of forests and backyards.

Identifying Woodpeckers in your area can be fun and easy, and it is a great way to get to know the different species of birds in Colorado.

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.

Thanks for reading!

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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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