Discover the 8 woodpeckers of Nebraska to spot

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Woodpeckers of Nebraska

Woodpeckers are some of the most fascinating birds in the animal kingdom and can be seen throughout North America. There are eight woodpeckers of Nebraska, each with its unique appearance, sounds, and behavior.

Of the eight woodpeckers in Nebraska, the first five are more observed than the last three, and five can be seen in the state all year round. Four species are often seen in backyards and at bird feeders around Nebraska.

What Are The Most Common Woodpeckers In Nebraska?

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

This post will explore the eight woodpecker species of Nebraska and highlight their unique characteristics, such as size, calls, plumage, and feeding behavior.

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

Nebraska Woodpeckers

According to the latest data from ebird, there are eight observed species of Woodpeckers in Nebraska. This data has been collected from over 9,600 dedicated bird watchers throughout Nebraska.

Here are some quick facts:

  • The Downy Woodpecker is the most commonly observed Woodpecker in Nebraska
  • The Lewis’s Woodpecker is the least widely observed Woodpecker in Nebraska
  • The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest Woodpecker in Nebraska
  • The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest Woodpecker in Nebraska
  • The Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker and Hairy Woodpecker are common backyard birds of Nebraska and are most likely to visit your bird feeders.

8 Types Of Woodpeckers In Nebraska

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 and are non-migratory, and can be seen in Nebraska 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.

2. Northern Flicker

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

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.

3. 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 eastern Nebraska 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.

4. Red-headed Woodpecker

The Red-headed Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America and can be seen in Nebraska during the summer and spring 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.

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 Nebraska.

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. Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker found in North America and can be seen in the northeastern part of Nebraska 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.

7. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America. They are most often seen in Nebraska during the spring and fall migration 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.

8. Lewis’s Woodpecker

Lewis’s Woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers found in western North America. They can be seen in the southwestern edge of Nebraska during the summer breeding months.

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.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What kind of woodpeckers are in Nebraska?

There are eight observed woodpeckers in Nebraska. The most common include the Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Lewis’s Woodpecker.

Are there Pileated Woodpeckers in Nebraska?

Yes, there are Pileated Woodpeckers in Nebraska. They are the sixth most observed species of woodpecker in Nebraska and can be seen in the northeastern edge of the state all year round.

Are red-headed woodpeckers in Nebraska?

Yes, there are Red-headed Woodpeckers in Nebraska. They are the fourth most observed species of woodpecker in Nebraska and can be seen in the state all year round.

What Is The Largest Woodpecker In Nebraska?

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in Nebraska.

What Is The Smallest Woodpecker In Nebraska?

The Downy Woodpecker is the Smallest woodpecker in Nebraska.

Keep an eye out for the woodpeckers of Nebraska

Nebraska is home to 8 different Woodpecker species ranging from the most diminutive Downy Woodpecker to the largest Pileated Woodpecker. The Woodpeckers of Nebraska are an exciting and essential part of the state’s ecosystem and overall bird population.

Whether you are interested in identifying birds at your backyard feeder or observing Woodpeckers in their natural habitat, this list will help you identify the many woodpeckers of Nebraska.

If you have questions about identifying more species of birds in Nebraska or finding out which ones live near you, let us know! We would love to help identify new bird species for our readers.

Happy Birding!

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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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