Discover 11 Woodpeckers of Oklahoma to spot

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Woodpeckers of Oklahoma

The Woodpeckers of Oklahoma are a fascinating group of birds known for their distinctive drumming and wood-pecking behaviors. These birds are also known for their striking colors and patterns, making them a joy for birdwatchers of all levels.

In Oklahoma, there are eleven woodpecker species that call the state home. From the common Red-bellied Woodpecker to the striking Pileated Woodpecker, these birds will surely delight and inspire.

What Are The Most Common Woodpeckers Oklahoma?

The most common woodpeckers in Oklahoma include the Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Lewis’s Woodpecker, and Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

Join us as we take an in-depth look at the most common woodpeckers of Oklahoma. Learn about their unique characteristics, behaviors, and habitats, and discover where to find them in the state.

Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or just getting started, this post will deepen your understanding and appreciation of the woodpeckers in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Woodpeckers

According to the latest data from ebird, there are eleven observed species of Woodpeckers in Oklahoma. This data has been collected from over 11,400 dedicated bird watchers throughout the state.

Here are some quick facts:

  • Red-bellied Woodpeckers are the most commonly observed species in Oklahoma
  • Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are the least widely observed species in Oklahoma
  • The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest Woodpecker in Oklahoma
  • Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest species in Oklahoma
  • Downy Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Northern Flickers are common backyard birds of Oklahoma and are most likely to visit backyard feeders.

11 Types Of Woodpeckers In Oklahoma

1. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are a medium-sized woodpecker found in the eastern United States. They are non-migratory and can be seen in Oklahoma 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
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker scientific name: Melanerpes Carolinus

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 backyard 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

Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest member of the woodpecker family in North America. They are found in wooded areas throughout North America, are non-migratory, and is a year-round resident of Oklahoma.

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
  • Downy Woodpecker Scientific name: Picoidis pubescens

Their bills are short, straight, and chisel-like, which they use to drill into trees to find insects to eat.

Downy woodpeckers are 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 backyard feeders that offer suet, black-oil 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 Oklahoma.

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
  • Northern Flicker Scientific Name: Colaptes auratus

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 backyard 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

Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers found in North America and can be seen in eastern Oklahoma 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
  • Pileated Woodpecker Scientific Name: Dryocopus pileatus

Pileated woodpeckers have 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, carpenter ants, and beetle larvae.

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 large 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. Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpecker found across North America and are a year-round resident of Oklahoma.

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
  • Red-headed Woodpecker Scientific Name: Melanerpes erythrocepphalus

Red-headed woodpeckers have 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 and suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts from backyard 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. Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpeckers are a medium-sized woodpecker found in the eastern United States. They are non-migratory and can be seen in Oklahoma 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
  • Hairy Woodpecker Scientific Name: Picoides villosus

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, black-oil sunflower seeds, and peanuts from feeders in your backyard.

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.

7. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are medium-sized woodpeckers found across North America. It is a migratory woodpecker and can be seen in Oklahoma during the colder non-breeding season.

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
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Scientific Name: Sphyrapicus varius

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 tree 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. Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed woodpeckers are a small woodpecker found in the southwestern United States. They are non-migratory and can be seen in the far western region of Oklahoma 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
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker Scientific Name: Picoidis scalaris

Ladder-backed Woodpeckers have 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. 

9. Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers found in the deserts and open woodlands of the southwest United States and parts of northern Mexico. They can be seen in a small region of southern Oklahoma all year round.

They have black and white barring on their wings, back, and golden-yellow spots above their beaks and on their napes. Males also have a red patch on their crowns.

  • Length: 22-26cm (8.6 to 10.2 inches)
  • Weight: 73-98g (2.6 to 3.5 oz)
  • Wingspan: 42-44cm (16.5 to 17.3 inches)
  • Size: Larger than a Downy Woodpecker but smaller than a Northern Flicker
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker Scientific Name: Melanerpes Aurifrons

The Golden-fronted Woodpecker call is a rolling “churrr” and “kek kek” cackle. They also have a simple rolling drum, followed by single taps.

Golden-fronted Woodpeckers are omnivores, feeding on insects, fruits, seeds, and nuts. They will visit bird feeders that offer suet or sunflower seeds.

The Golden-fronted Woodpecker is a cavity nester, and both males and females will take turns drilling the hole, which may be used more than once.

The female will lay between 4-5 white eggs per clutch, with both parents participating in incubation.

The chicks hatch after about two weeks, but it takes another three weeks for them to fledge and be able to fly on their own.

10. Lewis’s Woodpecker

The Lewis’s Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker found in western North America and can be seen in a small pocket of west Oklahoma that borders New Mexico 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 Woodpecker Scientific Name: Melanerpes lewis 

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.

11. Red-cockaded Woodpecker

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is a small woodpecker found in the southeastern United States. These rare woodpeckers can be seen in a small southeastern region of Oklahoma all year round.

They are primarily black and white with a white cheek patch and visible black and white bars on the backs. Males 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
  • Red-coackaded Woodpecker Scientific Name: Picoides borealis

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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What kind of woodpeckers live in Oklahoma?

There are eleven kinds of woodpeckers in Oklahoma. The most common woodpeckers include the Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Lewis’s Woodpecker, and Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

Do pileated woodpeckers live in Oklahoma?

Yes, Pileated Woodpeckers live in Oklahoma year-round! They are the fourth most commonly observed species of woodpecker in Oklahoma.

What Is The Largest Woodpecker In Oklahoma?

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in Oklahoma.

What Is The Smallest Woodpecker In Oklahoma?

The Downy Woodpecker is the Smallest in Oklahoma

Keep an eye out for the Woodpeckers of Oklahoma

Oklahoma is home to eleven woodpecker species, making it an ideal destination for birdwatchers and nature lovers! Woodpeckers in Oklahoma range in size from the large Pileated Woodpecker to the smaller Downy Woodpecker, and all but one can be seen in Oklahoma all year round.

If you’re lucky enough to spot a Red-cockaded Woodpecker, consider yourself very fortunate!

We hope the information in this article will help you quickly identify these beautiful birds in your backyard or next nature walk.

If you have questions about identifying more species of birds in Oklahoma 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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