12 Exciting Woodpeckers of Washington to see and hear

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Woodpeckers of Washington

If you’re a birdwatcher in Washington state, chances are you’ve encountered some of the fascinating woodpecker species that call this region home. From the iconic Pileated Woodpecker to the elusive Black-backed Woodpecker, the Woodpeckers of Washington offer diverse colors, sounds, and behaviors to observe and enjoy. 

What Are The Most Common Woodpeckers In Washington State?

The most common woodpeckers in Washington include the Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Lewis’s Woodpecker, White-headed Woodpecker, Williamson’s Sapsucker, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Black-backed Woodpecker, and Acorn Woodpecker.

Residents can see 12 species of woodpeckers in Washington throughout the year. Of the twelve woodpeckers in Washington, the first five are more likely to be seen than the last seven, and all but three can be seen in the state all year round.

The two most observed woodpecker species are often seen in Washington state gardens and backyard feeders.

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 Washington.

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

Washington Woodpeckers

According to the latest data from ebird, there are twelve observed species of Woodpeckers in Washington State. This data has been collected from over 37,800 dedicated bird watchers throughout the state.

Here are some quick facts:

12 Types Of Woodpeckers In Washington

1. Northern Flicker

Northern Flickers are medium-sized woodpeckers found across North America and can be seen in Washington 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
  • 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.

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 can be seen in Washington 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.

Downy woodpeckers are a very vocal birds 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

Hairy Woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers found throughout the United States. They are non-migratory and are year-round residents of Washington state.

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.

Hairy woodpeckers are cavity nesters, 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. Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker found in North America and can be seen in mature forests of western Washington 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

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, 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 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. Red-breasted Sapsucker

Red-breasted Sapsuckers are 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. They can be seen in the mature forests of western Washington all year round.

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
  • Red-breasted Sapsucker Scientific Name: Sphyrapicus ruber

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.

Red-breasted Sapsuckers are cavity nesters 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.

6. Red-naped Sapsucker

The Red-naped Sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker found in western North America.

They can be seen in the dryer eastern half of Washington during the summer and spring breeding seasons.

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
  • Red-naped Sapsucker Scientific Name: Sphyrapicus nuchalis

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.

7. Lewis’s Woodpecker

Lewis’s Woodpeckers are a medium-sized woodpecker found in western North America. They can be seen in eastern Washington during their migration and breeding season.

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.

8. White-headed Woodpecker

White-headed Woodpeckers are a medium-sized woodpecker found in the western United States and Canada. They can be seen along Washington’s Cascade Mountain range all year round.

They have a solid black body with white stripes on their wings and a white head. The males have a red patch at the rear of their crowns, while the females have a black patch.

  • Length: 20-24cm (8 to 9.5 inches)
  • Weight: 48-70g (1.7 to 2.5 oz)
  • Wingspan: 36-44cm (14 to 17 inches)
  • Size: Similar in size to a Robin and Hairy Woodpecker
  • White-headed Woodpecker Scientific Name: Picoides albolarvatus

The White-headed Woodpecker is a very vocal bird with a “pik” call similar to the Hairy Woodpecker. Both males and females have a deep resonating drum that they use to communicate during nesting season, mark their territory or attract a mate.

White-headed Woodpeckers are bark foragers whose diet consists primarily of pine seeds and insects such as beetles, ants, and spiders.

The White-headed Woodpecker is a cavity nester, and males and females will typically drill a new hole each year.

Females will lay between 4-5 white eggs per clutch. Both Parents 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.

9. Williamson’s Sapsucker

Williamson’s Sapsuckers are a medium-sized woodpecker found in the western United States. They can be seen along the eastern edge of the Cascade Mountain Range during the summer and spring breeding seasons.

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
  • Williamson’s Sapsucker Scientific Name: Sphyrapicus thyroideus

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.

10. American Three-Toed Woodpecker

American three-toed Woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers 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 Washington’s Cascade Mountains 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
  • American Three-toed Woodpecker Scientific Name: Picoides dorsalis

American three-toed Woodpeckers are shy birds, 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.

American three-toed Woodpeckers are cavity nesters 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.

11. Black-backed Woodpecker

Black-backed Woodpeckers are a medium-sized woodpecker that is found across North America. They are non-migratory, and can be seen along Washington’s Cascade mountain range all year round.

Adults have a distinctive black back and head with a single white stripe reminiscent of a mustache. Their underparts are primarily white, with some black barring on their flanks. The males have a small patch of yellow on their crowns.

  • Length: 22-23cm (about 9 inches)
  • Weight: 61-88g (2.1 to 3.1 oz)
  • Wingspan: 40-42cm (15.8 to 16.5 inches)
  • Size: Similar in size to a Robin
  • Black-backed Woodpecker Scientific Name: Picoides arcticus

Black-backed Woodpeckers are vocal birds whose calls consist of a sharp “pik” or “kyik” sound. Males also drum on trees as part of their territorial displays.

Black-backed Woodpeckers are mostly insectivores that flake off the bark of dead trees to feed on larvae from wood-boring beetles. They also eat other insects and spiders and some fruits and nuts when available.

The Black-backed Woodpecker is a cavity nester and will excavate its nest hole or use an existing one made by another species of woodpecker. Both males and females take turns excavating their nesting cavity, with the male doing most of the work.

Both the male and female will take turns incubating the eggs and raising the chicks. Females will lay between 3-4 white eggs per clutch, and both parents will 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.

12. Acorn Woodpecker

The Acorn Woodpecker is a small to medium-sized woodpecker found along the west coast of North America to central Mexico. They are more common along the west coast of Oregon, but their year-round range can sometimes extend into the southwestern edge of Washington. 

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 Woodpecker Scientific Name: Melanerpes formicivorus

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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Kind Of Woodpeckers Are In Washington State?

Twelve kinds of woodpecker species live in Washington. These include the Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Lewis’s Woodpecker, White-headed Woodpecker, Williamson’s Sapsucker, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Black-backed Woodpecker, and Acorn Woodpecker.

Are Pileated Woodpeckers In Washington State?

Yes, Pileated Woodpeckers are found in the forests of western Washington. They are primarily seen in areas with large trees, as they rely on these for their food sources and nesting sites.

Are Red-Headed Woodpeckers In Washington State?

No, Red-Headed Woodpeckers are not found in Washington State. They live in the eastern half of the United States, and the closest population is in east Montana.

What’s The Biggest Woodpecker In Washington State?

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest in Washington State.

What Is The Smallest Woodpecker In Washington State?

The Downy Woodpecker is the Smallest in Washington State.

Keep An Eye Out For The Woodpeckers Of Washington State

Woodpeckers are fascinating birds, and Washington State is home to various woodpecker species. These birds can be found in areas across Washington State, from the smallest Downy Woodpecker to the largest Pileated Woodpecker.

Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or just someone who enjoys learning about nature, taking some time to learn about the twelve kinds of woodpeckers that live in Washington will provide you with hours of entertainment and education.

We hope this article has provided all the information you need. If you have questions about identifying more species of birds in Washington 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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