7 Exciting Woodpeckers of Tennessee to hear and see

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Woodpeckers of Tennessee

As an avid birdwatcher, I have always been fascinated by the diverse bird species that call Tennessee their home. Among the many feathered creatures that flit and flutter around my state, the woodpeckers of Tennessee have always held a special place in my heart. 

These striking birds’ unique drumming behavior and brightly colored plumage never fail to capture my attention and leave me in awe. 

What Are The Most Common Woodpeckers In Tennessee?

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

Seven woodpeckers of Tennessee can be seen throughout the year. Of the seven woodpeckers in Tennessee, the first two are more observed than the last five, and all but one can be seen in the state all year round. 

The two most observed woodpecker species are often in gardens and backyard feeders around Tennessee.

Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or just curious about what kind of woodpecker species live in your area, here’s all you need to know about the Woodpeckers of Tennessee.

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

Tennessee Woodpeckers

According to the latest data from ebird, there are seven observed species of Woodpeckers in Tennessee. This data has been collected from over 22,100 dedicated bird watchers throughout the state.

Here are some quick facts:

7 Types Of Woodpeckers In Tennessee

1. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers found in the eastern United States. They are non-migratory and are year-round residents of Tennessee.

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 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, are non-migratory, and can be seen in Tennessee 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
  • 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.

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 backyard 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

Northern Flickers are medium-sized woodpeckers found across North America and is a year-round resident of Tennessee.

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

Northern flickers have 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

Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers found in North America and are year-round residents of Tennessee.

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

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, carpenter ants, bark beetles, and 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 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

Hairy Woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers found across North America. They are non-migratory and can be seen in Tennessee 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

Hairy woodpeckers have 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. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America. They are a migratory species and can be seen in Tennessee 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.

7. Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers found across North America and can be seen in Tennessee 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
  • Red-headed Woodpecker Scientific Name: Melanerpes erythrocepphalus

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 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.

Red-headed Woodpeckers are 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 are In Tennessee?

Seven kinds of woodpecker species live in Tennessee. The most common woodpeckers include the Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Red-headed Woodpecker.

Are There Red-headed Woodpeckers In Tennessee?

Yes, there are Red-headed Woodpeckers in Tennessee. They are not one of the most observed species but can be seen in Tennessee all year round.

Are There Downy Woodpeckers In Tennessee?

Yes, there are Downy Woodpeckers in Tennessee. They are the second most common species of Woodpecker in Tennessee and can often be seen in backyards and at bird feeders all year round.

Are There Acorn Woodpeckers In Tennessee?

No, the Acorn Woodpeckers range does not extend to Tennessee. Acorn Woodpeckers are primarily seen in California, Arizona, and New Mexico.

What’s The Biggest Woodpecker In Tennessee?

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest in Tennessee.

What Is The Smallest Woodpecker In Tennessee?

The Downy Woodpecker is the Smallest in Tennessee.

Keep an Eye Out For Woodpeckers In Tennessee

Tennessee is home to seven different Woodpecker species of varying sizes. The most common Woodpeckers in Tennessee include the Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Woodpecker, and Red-headed Woodpecker.

While all these birds have similar characteristics like diet and nesting habits, they also have unique plumage and behaviors that make them special.

Whether you’re an experienced bird watcher or just curious about what kinds of woodpeckers live in Tennessee, we hope this article has given you great insight into these fantastic feathered friends.

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