Bird watchers around the world love to set their sights on the woodpeckers. These tiny birds are a delight to watch as they peck on the trees while showing off their colored stripes and spots. There are so many woodpecker species in the world, each more different than the other. Twenty-two species of woodpeckers are found in the US, 7 of which are seen in Indiana alone.
The woodpeckers in Indiana are spread throughout the state. Although some common species may be spotted in the backyards of suburban Indiana homeowners, they usually inhabit the forested areas. To take in their beauty, you should know what species you are dealing with when you see a woodpecker.
Continue reading to find out more about the woodpecker species in Indiana and what to do when you find one.
7 Species of Woodpeckers in Indiana
As of now, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has identified seven species of woodpeckers in Indiana. From the rare Red-Headed Woodpeckers to Northern Flickers, the state plays host to some beautiful woodpeckers.
Let’s take a look at the woodpecker species in Indiana and where you may spot one.
The Red-Headed Woodpeckers are a part of the Melanerpes family of woodpeckers. This woodpecker is hard to miss. With a bright red head and black and white bodies, they hold a striking appearance compared to other woodpeckers.
The younger Red-Headed Woodpeckers have brown feathers instead of red on their lead in the first year. They can be as tall as 9 inches in length, and their weight averages at 2 – 3.2 oz. They have an average wingspan that stretches out at least 16.5 inches.
They are not seen near birdfeeders as often as some of the other common woodpeckers. Nevertheless, you will always see them year-round in Indiana without fail. These sneaky peckers only come near birdfeeders to collect tasty snacks and stash them away in their tree bark.
The Red-Headed Woodpeckers are believed to be opportunistic birds that have great foraging techniques. They are skilled flycatchers who like to gather small insects, berries, and nuts. They collect their supply and dart towards large scattered trees in the shaded areas. They prefer open areas like woodlands with oak trees, as they consume a lot of acorns.
The number of Red-Headed Woodpeckers has been on the decline for the last few years. So when you see one, make sure to appreciate the rare sight of this majestic bird.
Like the Red-Headed Woodpeckers, the Red-Bellied Woodpeckers also come under the Melanerpes genus of woodpeckers.
Red-Bellied Woodpeckers also have a red-colored head, but with some slight differences. They have white and black striped wings with a reddish mohawk and a red tint to their stomachs. At 9.4 inches, their body length is significantly larger than the common woodpeckers. Their wingspan and weight are the same as their Red-Headed Woodpecker siblings.
Red-Bellied Woodpeckers are commonly spotted in deciduous forests, near the rivers and swamps. In recent years, these birds have started frequenting towns as well. So you may come across them near bird feeders, especially suet feeders.
These woodpeckers gather live insects from the barks and limbs of trees. They also are seen catching insects in the air. At times, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers might give in to temptation and eat berries and nuts that are lying on the ground.
Earlier, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers were decreasing in number. However, the trend has shifted, and you can now see them throughout Indiana. These birds will make their presence known to you either with their appearance or with their vocals. Red-Bellied Woodpeckers are very out-going and love to show off their loud vocalizations. Their voices will echo throughout the neighborhood.
Pileated Woodpeckers belong to the Dryocopus family, known for their genus of large and powerful woodpeckers.
Pileated Woodpeckers have a unique face. They have sharp and slick red crest over their head with black and white stripes all over their face.
Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest species of woodpeckers in Indiana and possibly in the United States. They can grow 15.8-19.3 inches and, as a result, have a wingspan as wide as 29.5 inches. Since they are a large bird, it is no surprise that their weight ranges between 8 and 12 oz.
Pileated Woodpeckers can adapt to any habitat, although they preferred dense forests. Their species is mostly concentrated in the Northeastern part of Indiana. If left undisturbed, they may wander into the parks and woodlots in your neighborhood. You can try to attract them with suet feeders, but they like to forge food independently.
Pileated Woodpeckers gouge deep, rectangular holes in rotting trees to find carpenter ants. They also eat beetle larvae and termites. From time to time, you may also find them eating berries and wild nuts from fallen branches.
Pileated Woodpeckers have a healthy population, but they remain closed off from humans. They are shy birds that choose to stay away from non-residential areas. If you come across one, you should try to enjoy their company from afar so that you do not scare them off.
Downy Woodpeckers are a part of the Dryobates genus of woodpeckers that are very common in North America.
Downy Woodpeckers are the most common and widespread species in Indiana.
Their white and black bodies identify them with a slight red streak on their heads. These peckers come in tiny sizes, weighing about 0.7-1 oz. Their height ranges between 5.5-6.7 inches, and their wingspan is between 9.8-11.8 inches.
These woodpeckers love to visit neighborhoods and peck away at your backyard bird feeders. They can adapt to a variety of habitats. Besides suburban yards, they enjoy the river groves, willows, forests, and orchards. Their favorite place for forging food are deciduous forests. Whether it is weed stalks or large trees, Downy Woodpeckers can gather food from anywhere.
Downy Woodpeckers are smart and versatile. They can forage both on large tree trunks and small twigs and branches. They place themselves upside down, tapping and excavating those tiny branches. Their diet mostly consists of live insects like beetles, ants, gall wasps, and caterpillars. Like all the other woodpeckers till now, they also enjoy nuts and berries.
These friendly woodpeckers are seen everywhere and have never shown any evidence of decreasing in number. As long as you are not aggressive towards them, Downy Woodpeckers can be the sweetest feeder visitor.
Hairy Woodpeckers belong to the Leuconotopicus genus of birds. Hairy and Downy woodpeckers’ glaring similarities make it incredibly hard for the common eye to differentiate between them. Both have the same red streaks and black and white bodies, although Hairy Woodpeckers have longer beaks.
The only way to identify a Hairy Woodpecker is by its overall body shape. Hairy Woodpeckers are slightly longer, around 7-10 inches. They have a wider wingspan of 13-16 inches and weigh twice the size of Downy Woodpeckers.
Hairy Woodpeckers, just like their lookalikes, are seen in Indiana throughout the year. They often stay together with Downy Woodpeckers. So, it’s possible that you mistook one for a Downy Woodpecker. As larger birds, they require larger trees. You can easily spot them in deciduous, coniferous, and groves along rivers.
Hairy Woodpeckers are energetic birds that tend to peck in the same spot for as long as possible. They scale off the bark of dead trees in pursuit of their primary food, wood-boring insects. They also enjoy beetles, ants, caterpillars, berries, seeds, and nuts.
Hairy Woodpeckers are just as large in number as Downy Woodpeckers. It is not easy to differentiate between a Hairy Woodpecker and a Downy Woodpecker. The only way to do so would be to carefully examine their eating habits and body shape when you see one.
Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers belong to the Sphyrapicus family of woodpeckers. Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers are mostly black with white and yellow chests and red feathers above and below their beaks. Their length ranges between 7.1-8.7 inches, with wings stretching as far out as 13-15 inches. They are tiny but still heavier than many woodpeckers, weighing about 1.5-1.9 oz.
Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers go around the state of Indiana. They winter in Southern Indiana and then migrate through Northern Indiana for breeding time. They may show up near suet feeders, but they are not regular visitors. In summers, you will find them in the holes of deciduous and coniferous trees. In winters, they are also located near orchards.
One big difference that makes sapsuckers stand out is that the way they excavate tree barks for food. They drill tiny holes into the trees, with each hole neatly placed in rows. Once the drilling is done, they use their long tongues to take in all the sap that oozes out. They also eat insects that are attracted to the sap. Besides live insects and sap, they gather fruit, berries, and ants.
These woodpeckers are not as easy to find in Southern Indiana due to their decreasing number. Nevertheless, you can still spot several of them around the state. If you ever find shallow holes on the bark of a tree, then you might also come across the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker.
Northern Flickers belong to the Colaptes genus of birds. Northern Flickers are one of the more colorful woodpeckers. They have spotted underbellies, black beaks, red on the back of their heads, and a yellow tinge on their tails.
Their length ranges between 11-12 inches, with a wingspan can stretch out to 16.5-20.1 inches. At 3.9-5.6 oz, they weigh relatively large compared to other woodpeckers like the Hairy Woodpecker.
Northern Flickers are year-round visitors of backyards in Indiana. They prefer open grounds for foraging and therefore stay away from dense forests. They either hop on the ground for ants and insects or climb tree limbs like other woodpeckers.
These brown woodpeckers enjoy eating ants, beetles, caterpillars, and termites. Some birdwatchers report sightings where Northern Flickers catch insects flying in the air as well. They also eat fruits, berries, and nuts.
Spring season is when you can easily spot them. Their calls and drumming of trees to communicate are heard throughout Indiana during the spring season.
What to do when you spot a woodpecker in your backyard?
All birdwatchers and feeders love it when woodpeckers visit them. Like most birds, they frighten easily. So when you find a woodpecker in your yard, you have to be careful. Here is a list of steps you can take to make sure the woodpecker feels at home.
Keep Some Water Outside
Woodpeckers usually visit feeders with the hope that they can get a water bath. If possible, place a water fountain of the appropriate size to attract the woodpeckers.
Get Food That They Like
If you see a woodpecker in your backyard, the best way to make them stay is by offering them food. Once you find out what species they belong to, you will know what kind of food their diet includes. You can also smear suet on the bark of your trees to entice the woodpecker into staying.
Put Together A Nest
Woodpeckers are always looking for nesting grounds. You can provide the tiny birds with nest boxes.
Final Thoughts: Woodpeckers in Indiana
Everyone agrees that woodpeckers are fun to watch. They are songbirds whose chirping and drumming create a wholesome feeling for your backyard or garden.
The woodpeckers mentioned in this article tend to show up in your backyard, looking for a nest or storage place. As cute as they look while pecking, you also need to consider the health of your trees. The holes on trees do not cause any damage but can make the trees vulnerable to diseases.
If you wish to attract a woodpecker, it is recommended that you leave your dead trees or twigs alone. Woodpeckers find it easier to work with dead trees, and in return, they will stay away from your healthy trees.
Now that you know the species and where to find them, you are ready to feed the woodpeckers of Indiana.