7 Exciting Woodpeckers of Kentucky to look out for

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Woodpeckers of Kentucky

Have you ever wondered what woodpeckers of Kentucky you can see flying around the state?

If so, you should know that seven species of woodpeckers live in Kentucky throughout the year. The first four species on our list are more commonly seen than the last three, and all but one can be seen all year round.

What are The most common woodpeckers in Kentucky?

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

This article will discuss the seven common Woodpeckers of Kentucky and provide information on identifying them in your area. We will highlight such characteristics 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.

Kentucky Woodpeckers

According to the latest data from ebird, there are seven commonly observed species of Woodpeckers in Kentucky. This data has been collected from over 11,800 dedicated bird watchers throughout Kentucky.

Here are some quick facts:

  • The Red-bellied Woodpecker is the most commonly seen Woodpecker in Kentucky
  • The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the least widely seen Woodpecker in Kentucky
  • The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest Woodpecker in Kentucky
  • The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest Woodpecker in Kentucky
  • The Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Hairy Woodpecker are common backyard birds of Kentucky and are most likely to visit your bird feeders.

7 Types Of Woodpeckers In Kentucky

1. Red-bellied Woodpecker

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

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 can be seen in Kentucky 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. Northern Flicker

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

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. Pileated Woodpecker

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

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.

5. 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 Kentucky 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.

6. Red-headed Woodpecker

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

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.

7. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

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


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How many kinds of woodpeckers are there in Kentucky?

There are seven observed species of woodpeckers in Kentucky. The most common include the Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Are pileated woodpeckers in Kentucky?

Yes, there are Pileated Woodpeckers in Kentucky. They are the 4th most observed species of woodpecker in Kentucky and can be seen in the state all year round.

Are there red-headed woodpeckers in Kentucky?

Yes, there are Red-headed Woodpeckers in Kentucky. They are the 6th most observed species of Woodpecker in Kentucky and can be seen in the state all year round.

Are Woodpeckers rare in Kentucky?

No, woodpeckers are not rare in Kentucky. In fact, they can be seen quite often and there are three species that can be seen in backyards throughout the state. The Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker and the Hairy Woodpecker can often be seen in neighborhoods and at bird feeders.

What Is The Largest Woodpecker In Kentucky?

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in Kentucky.

What Is The Smallest Woodpecker In Kentucky?

The Downy Woodpecker is the Smallest woodpecker in Kentucky.

Keep an eye out for the Woodpeckers of Kentucky

Woodpeckers are a common sight in Kentucky and can be seen throughout the year. Seven species of Woodpecker call Kentucky home, and the Red-bellied Woodpecker is the most commonly seen. These birds can be identified by their size, plumage, feeding behavior, and calls.

Identifying these 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 Kentucky.

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.

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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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