8 Types of Woodpeckers in Michigan (with Pictures)

Woodpeckers in Michigan

Woodpeckers are well-known in cinema and real-life. With several characters based on the iconic bird, it is impossible not to know the basic facts about them. Most people, however, don’t know the sheer number of woodpecker species that exist.

There are approximately 300 types of woodpeckers in the world, and 22 of these species can be found in America. In Michigan, you can find about 8 of these woodpeckers. Each woodpecker has its own distinctive features and habits that will have any bird-enthusiast squealing in joy.

Read on to know more about the eight different kinds of woodpeckers in Michigan!


8 Popular Species of Woodpeckers Found in Michigan

As mentioned, there are eight different types of woodpeckers. We mention each type to make it easier to identify them out in the wild.


Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Length – 5.5-6.7 inches
Weight – 0.7-1.0 oz
Wingspan – 9.8-11.8 inches

The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest type of woodpecker in North America. Their small size is actually one of their distinctive features, along with the red spot on the heads. They can be found all through the year in Michigan. They’re spread out through the whole state, so you can find them anywhere if you look close enough.

The easiest place to find Downys is at the feeder. They’re commonly visible at feeders that have mixed seed, black sunflower seeds, suet, or peanuts. They’re visible throughout the year but are especially common around wintertime.

Apart from the bird feeders, you’ll often find these tiny creatures hammering away from the trees, searching for larvae. They also eat berries as well as acorns and, on occasion, do drink the nectar from hummingbird feeders.

They usually nest in dead or dying trees or dead branches of live trees. So, if you have a few dead trees around the house, you might just find a Downy or two living there!


Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Length – 7.1-10.2 inches
Weight – 1.4-3.4 oz
Wingspan – 13.0-16.1 inches

The similarity between the Hairy and the Downy woodpecker is incredible. It can be quite hard to tell them apart if you’re not looking for it. They have extremely similar coloring, down to the red spot on the heads! The way to tell the difference is through size.

The Hairy Woodpecker, much bigger than the Downy have a prominently lengthier beak. The chances are that you’ve seen both birds around but haven’t noticed the difference. So, the next time you see one, look a little closer!

The Hairy Woodpecker will be around for one year, much like its doppelganger, and can be found throughout the US. These are usually found by the feeders, and fed on suet, black sunflower seeds, peanuts, insect larvae, berries, and acorns.


Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Length – 9.4 inches
Weight – 2.0-3.2 oz
Wingspan – 13.0-16.5 inches

When you first see a Red-Bellied Woodpecker, you’re likely to be confused by the name. They have a shocking mohawk of red on their necks but less noticeable red on their bellies.

The red on their bellies is paler and not as noticeable when they’re up against a tree. An easier way to identify them would be to check their unique black and white-colored wings with a bright red around the neck.

You’ll see them often at bird feeders; they especially favor the suet feeders. They don’t migrate and are visible in Michigan all through the year!


Red-Headed Woodpecker

Red-Headed Woodpecker

Length – 7.5-9.1 inches
Weight – 2.0-3.2 oz
Wingspan – 16.5 inches

These birds are truly red-headed. They’re easily recognizable because of their shocking redheads and black and white bodies. While they are easy to spot, you’re probably not going to see many around.

They aren’t present in Michigan year-round. They usually show up in time for breeding and winters. Even in winters, they can mostly be seen in southern Michigan and not the whole state.

The population of Red-Headed Woodpeckers is on a steady decline. They’re also rarely present at bird feeders. You can catch fleeting glimpses of them as they fly away to stash their food in their holes when there is rain.

Red-Headed Woodpeckers usually eat on berries, seeds, and even insects. These are known as one of the most skilled flycatchers and usually store their catch in tree barks for a later date.


Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Length – 15.8-19.3 inches
Weight – 8.8-12.3 oz
Wingspan – 26-29.5 inches

Pileated Woodpeckers are hard to spot. They’re quite elusive and not present throughout the state. They are harder to spot in the southeastern part of Michigan.

You’d expect them to be a lot smaller for a bird that is as elusive. Surprisingly, they’re one of the largest species in the woodpecker family. They have an easily identifiable red mohawk with long beaks and black and white body.

Like most woodpeckers, they feed on suet feeders but primarily eat carpenter ants. They’re also known to eat beetles, larvae, fruits, and nuts.

These birds prefer large dead and dying trees in mature forests. They nest in the massive holes they drill for themselves in these trees. If you put up a nesting box in a similar tree, they’re likely to show up in pairs!


Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Length – 11-12.2 inches
Weight – 3.9-5.6 oz
Wingspan – 16.5-20.1 inches

Northern Flickers are easily identifiable. They are quite big, although smaller than the Pileated Woodpecker, and very colorful. They have spotted underbellies, black bibs, and yellow on their tails. They also have a trademark red on the back of their necks.

Northern Flickers don’t frequent feeders. They prefer to subsist on ants that they pick up from the ground. They do eat sunflower seeds, thistles, and berries apart from ants.

The colorful birds prefer nesting in old and rotting trees. As a form of communication, they drum on the trees while hunting. So, if you hear some drumming in your backyard, then chances are that a Northern Flicker is trying to communicate with someone.


Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Length – 7.1-8.7 inches
Weight – 1.5-1.9 oz
Wingspan – 13.4-15.8 inches

These birds live up to their name. They are commonly found on the branches of trees to search for harvesting sap or insects to feed on. They make holes into trees, maple trees, and birch generally, and use their long tongues to harvest the sap. They do show up at suet feeders but aren’t a common sight.

The birds are usually black-bodied with a lighter underbelly. They have a yellow and black chest and feathers of red around their beaks. They’re quite noticeable with all the color on them!

Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers aren’t present all through state all-year long. They have a breeding population in northern Michigan and migrate to the southern parts when the time comes. Don’t be discouraged; there’s still a chance they might show up!


Black-Backed Woodpecker

Black-Backed Woodpecker

Length – 9.1 inches
Weight – 2.1-3.1 oz
Wingspan – 15.8-16.5 inches

The Black-Backed Woodpecker is only found in the northernmost parts of Michigan. You’ll find them up there all year round. They’re usually near the shores of Lake Michigan.

These birds love burnt forests, so if you happen to know a spot, then you might just find a few Black-Backed Woodpeckers. The unique part about these birds is that they create a new hole each time they nest. Other birds then use the empty nests in the area!

The woodpeckers are distinctive with their white underbellies contrasting with their black bodies. Spotting the male of the species is incredibly easy, as well as they have a yellow crown around their heads. The Black-Backed Woodpeckers primarily feed on wood-boring beetle that they find in trees.


How To Attract Woodpeckers

Woodpeckers may be a common bird, but they are notoriously hard to spot and attract. Feeders in your backyard go a long way in attracting chickadees and cardinals, but there are extra measures you can take to attract some woodpeckers to your backyard!

Favorable Food

You’re likely to frequent a restaurant if you like the food they offer. Much like that, woodpeckers are more likely to show up if you have the food they like.

A lot of woodpeckers have similar tastes, such as black sunflower seeds, suet, and peanuts. If you’re putting up a suet feeder in your backyard, making sure it has a tail prop area can go a long way in attracting larger woodpeckers!

Leave the Dead

Throughout the article, it is mentioned time and time again that woodpeckers nest in dead or dying trees. Trees like these are easier to boreholes in and have a host of larvae to snack on. By leaving the dead trees alone, you’re increasing the chances of woodpeckers coming to nest.

Nest Boxes

If you don’t have many dead trees lying around in your backyard, you can put up nesting boxes. Some woodpeckers will use the boxes. The Pileated Woodpecker, for example, is known to use nest boxes from May to July!

Go Native

Woodpeckers are known to eat a host of berries, and some species even snack on the sap from trees. By planting such fruit-bearing plants in the area, you’re increasing the chances of a woodpecker flying by. Some options are dogwood, blueberries, apples, and elderberries. If you don’t spot a woodpecker, at least you have some fruit!


Woodpeckers use birdbaths like any other bird. By keeping a water source available, you’re more likely to attract woodpeckers. If possible, install a water mover or a solar fountain with batteries to keep the water moving! A running source of water is more attractive to the birds!


Fun Facts about Woodpeckers

Now that you’re aware of what kind of woodpeckers are likely to show up in your backyard, here are some fun facts about them!

They have long tongues.

Woodpeckers may not seem like it, but they have super long tongues hidden away! They use their tongues to reach for insects inside of the holes they create and, in certain cases, suck the sap out of trees. The tongues are almost twice the size of their bills and are hidden away in the back of their heads.

No Headaches

You’d think that all the drumming and drilling would give the birds a headache, but they don’t! Their bills are built to distribute shock through their thick skulls when drilling. They may be thick-skulled, but they’re extremely skilled!


After watching woodpeckers for a while, you’ll start to notice something peculiar about them. All the holes they drill have perfectly circular entrances. If you see a more oblong or oval entrance, then you’re probably looking at the nest of a Pileated woodpecker.

New Nests

Woodpeckers tend to leave their homes quite often. After spending ages create a nest for themselves, they usually move out within a year. They love creating new nests each time. The left-behind nests are used by other birds, squirrels, and chipmunks!

Furry Noses

Woodpeckers don’t seem like the type of bird to have a furry nose, but they do! Feathers cover their nostrils to keep any splinters and debris out as they peck!



If you’re new to bird-watching or just to Woodpeckers, it can be helpful to know some of the basics.

What is a suet feeder?

If you’re someone who is incredibly enthusiastic about birds, then you know what these are. Suet feeders, when bought from a store, are large wire or plastic mesh cages that have a cake of hardened suet in them. They don’t just attract woodpeckers but a host of other birds such as bluebirds, wrens, sparrows, and cardinals.

What is suet?

Suet can generally be defined as beef fat. Technically it is hard fat around the kidneys and loins in meat, specifically beef and mutton. This fat is safe for birds to consume and is particularly attractive to woodpeckers, regardless of the type.

Do They Damage Houses?

Woodhouses can be attractive to woodpeckers. A woodpecker doesn’t understand the concept of our houses; to them, it is yet another tree. So, darker-colored wood houses may sustain some damage in the form of drilled holes.

When Can This Damage Occur?

Woodpeckers are most likely to drill into your house around fall. From the months of September to November, some measures should be taken to prevent a dozen holes from being drilled into your walls.


To Sum Up

Woodpeckers may be elusive, but they’re not impossible to spot. With the right conditions, times, and some patience, you’re bound to spot a few of the woodpeckers that are present in Michigan. You can use methods such as suet feeders and water sources to attract the birds, but nothing beats good old patience and observation in spotting these stunning birds.

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