7 Species of Woodpeckers in Missouri (with Pictures)

Woodpeckers in Missouri

Woodpeckers are instantly identifiable by their extraordinary way of pecking vertically on poles and trees. Over 180 species of these birds are spread across the world, and they superbly adapt to an extensive range of habitats, which include deserts, jungles, forests, and even urban settings. All woodpeckers belong to the Picidae bird family.

Almost every bird-watcher is acquainted with a woodpecker’s signature sound. If you happen to stumble across them in the spring and fall, you can hear them drilling or drumming! Since these birds seamlessly conform to living their life in the barks, their feet bear two toes pointing forward and two pointing backward with spikey claws. This helps them scale vertical tree trunks and other surfaces to find shelter and food.

Missouri woodpeckers encompass seven species comprising of all the major native woodpecker genera. Six woodpecker species are year-round residents. However, sometimes, Red-headed woodpeckers do migrate south as per local food provisions. Only the Yellow-bellied species comes around on a yearly basis.


7 Types of Woodpeckers in Missouri

Missouri has seven species of woodpeckers. These are the Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Pileated Woodpecker, and Northern Flicker. Usually, these birds can be found throughout the state. In fact, you can find all the seven species in St. Louis.

Scroll through the article as we acquaint you with an overview of each of the seven species of woodpeckers in Missouri, including some facts that’ll leave you dazed!


Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

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

The splendid Red-headed Woodpecker is so strikingly patterned that it’s been known as a “flying checkerboard,” owing to its crimson head, snow-white frame, and blackish-white wings.

These birds are quite adept at catching insects midair, eat plenty of acorns, nuts, and often hide away leftover food in the trunk’s crevices for later. Although this magnificent species has greatly declined in the past few years due to habitat loss and food supply challenges, you might come across them in Missouri.

A Red-headed Woodpecker is found yearlong in the state. Its physical appearance translates into a troublefree identification. Both males and females share the same bodily features, while juveniles are less colorful with an all grey-brown plumage and white patches on the wings. This species is known to be unique when set against other woodpeckers.

These birds tend to accommodate themselves in open woodlands with clear under-stories, swamps, and pine savannas. Additionally, they also enjoy open grasses such as oak-dominated landscapes. Their undying propensity for nuts means they are drawn towards backyard feeders with foodstuff like sunflower seeds.

If you are a woodpecker enthusiast, you can attest your backyard feeder to their gregarious character. These creatures don’t mind fluttering in large groups when there’s surplus food. In that situation, they can be somewhat vocal.

A Red-headed woodpecker is a fierce defender of its territory. It may even strike out another species’ eggs from nest and nest boxes, damage other bird’s nests, and puncture duck’s eggs. Simply put, it can be quite vigorous when it comes to marking its territory.


Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

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

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are a medium-sized species with glowing red caps and strikingly barred backs. Physically, their name can be somewhat misleading because the feathers in their belly are anything but red. This species boasts peachy-red napes and caps with whitish-black stripes on the backs.

They can be commonly spotted in the woods throughout Missouri all year round—perched on the trunks and branches of trees. Red-bellied woodpeckers are popular for fleeting from the forests to pay a visit to backyard feeders.

Pro tip: Use suet blocks in winters, sunflower seeds, and peanuts to attract them. Even dead trees also tempt them for the insects inside.

These birds are larger than the average bird size and bear an outgoing persona. Apart from their adaptable nature, they possess loud vocalization skills and can often be heard across the neighborhood. One of the easiest ways to find a Red-bellied Woodpecker in Missouri is to learn its loud, rolling call.

These creatures are most active in summer and spring, so listen closely throughout those seasons. Another thing to know about woodpeckers in this species is that they wedge huge nuts into trunk crevices, followed by whacking them into little chunks with their beaks.


Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

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

Downy Woodpeckers fall towards the smaller end of the woodpecker family. Their size varies between a sparrow and a robin, and their beaks are also shorter than most others. These active little birds are a familiar sight at various parks, woodlots, and backyard feeders.

This species is common in Missouri and found all year round in forests and airy woodlands. They tend to prefer deciduous trees, but can also be located in residential areas. There, they join flocks of nuthatches and chickadees, hardly outsizing them.

The Downy Woodpecker consumes foods that are inaccessible to larger woodpeckers, such as insects inhabited on or in the stems of weeds. Thus, you may occasionally observe them pounding at goldenrod galls to eke out the larvae.

Often acrobatic in nature, these black and white woodpeckers are inhabited on tiny branches. Sometimes, they balance their bodies on slender plant galls, suet feeders, and sycamore seed balls. Downy Woodpeckers and their greater lookalikes, Hairy Woodpeckers, present one of the few challenges that bird-watchers face while identifying them.

Like most other woodpeckers, these birds are greatly active during summer and spring, pounding into tree barks and performing their signature high pitched calls. In the winter season, they regularly follow mixed-specie flocks. This practice enables them to join forces with other tiny birds, thereby facilitating advanced protection and higher chances of finding food.


Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

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

The larger amongst its doppelganger, the Hairy Woodpecker, is a tiny but powerful creature that forages along with tree barks and its branches. This bird boasts a soldierly appeal with its straight-postured, striped head, and erect demeanor on tree trunks. You can easily find them all year long in Missouri, at sunflower feeders or backyard suets, and hear them whinnying from parks and woods.

The most substantial difference between these birds and their lookalikes, Downy Woodpeckers is their elongated bills. These species carry a squarish front, whitish-black plumage, and a generous white patch that steers towards their backsides.

When a Hairy Woodpecker is busy foraging, you can often listen to its vigorous tapping if you observe quietly from a distance. Some bird-watchers have even witnessed these creatures drinking sap leaking from wells in tree trunks. Though it’s rare, they have also been seen pecking into sugarcanes to gulp down the sugary juice.

If you want to draw a Hairy Woodpecker, it’s best to leave a dead tree standing in your backyard. These creatures might try to start a family there! Years later, their space might even become a shelter to chickadees, wrens, bluebirds, or nuthatches.


Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

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

During a stroll through the woods, you might detect rows of shallow holes in tree barks. Here in Missouri, this is the artwork of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, a species of woodpeckers that lap the leaking sap and trapped insects with its unique, brush-tipped tongue.

You will find a non-breeding population of these birds in southern and mid-Missouri, after which they migrate northwards to their breeding grounds. They usually prefer young deciduous forests at an elevation of up to 6,500 feet. In winters, they fancy fluttering through open spaces.

A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is sharply attired in black and white bars. Its undersides are fairly white and at times, yellowish. The males bear a red throat, cap and rest motionless on tree trunks for long periods while feeding. If you’re on the lookout to find one of these majestic creatures, focus on their stuttered drumming or loud mewing calls.

This species isn’t the most regular bird feeder visitor. However, it may sure visit suet feeders. Having maple trees or young birch might get them to arrive at your backyard and drill the sap-wells firsthand. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker regularly uses human-made materials to abet its territorial drumming practice.

Metal chimney flashing and street signs amplify the uneven tapping of these woodpeckers. They do not suffer any ill effects of hammering their bill on metal and return to their preferred sign every other day to devise their Morse code-like language.


Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Length – 15.8 – 19.3 inches
Weight – 8.8 – 12.3 oz
Wingspan – 26.0 – 29.5 inches

The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the largest, most remarkable forest birds across the United States. It almost matches the size of a crow and bears bold, black and white stripes down its neck with a flamy-red crest.

You can spot and listen for these birds whacking at fallen logs and dead trees while searching for their prey, which is mostly carpenter ants. These woodpeckers leave a trail of rare rectangular holes in the tree trunk. The nest holes built by these creatures offer shelter to distinct species. Some of these are ducks, bats, owls, swifts, and pine martens.

This species is known for its adaptability in any habitat, explaining its prevalence over a vast landscape. These birds are identified as extremely shy, and their attitude towards humans depends on the specifics of their territory. For instance, they can be pretty coy when living and breeding in non-residential areas. Many bird-watchers have also shared their experiences of having these woodpeckers to their backyard feeders.

The best place to find them is in mature forests with plenty of downed logs and dead trees—profound excavations into tree trunks are telltale signs of these birds. Pileated Woodpeckers are found at all heights in the woodlands and are often spotted foraging near the bases of trees.


Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Length – 11.0 – 12.2 inches
Weight – 3.9 – 5.6 oz
Wingspan – 16.5 – 20.1 inches

A Northern Flicker is a large, brown species of woodpeckers with a faint expression and elegant black-scalloped plumage.

While walking, don’t be fazed if you scare them from the ground. It’s not where woodpeckers are generally found, but they mainly feed on beetles and ants, digging for them with their curved bills. On flying, this species exhibits a dash of color in the wings. Red in the West and Yellow if you live in the East.

These woodpeckers stand unique from most of the white and black-bodied birds mentioned above. They feature a silvery brown appearance with bright markings. The undersides of these birds are spotted with dots. They reside all year long in Missouri, and if you cannot find one on the ground, look for the branches. They are often perched there.

They produce a loud, ringing call with a piercing yelp that helps set them apart from their friends. During later summers, bird-watchers avidly hear the incessant yammering of hungry peckers to spot a nest. Like most species, Northern Flickers drum on things as a medium of territory defense and communication.


How to attract woodpeckers?

Attracting woodpeckers to feeders is an activity dear to every bird-enthusiast. Unfortunately, they’re harder to spot and entice. Here are a few key tips on how you can draw woodpeckers to your yard.

Offer food they like

Consider setting up a suet feeder and offering sunflower seeds. Ensure to get a suet feeder that accompanies a tail prop area to lure larger woodpeckers.

Establish nest boxes

Many woodpecker species use nest boxes. Pileated woodpeckers are known to use these from May to July.

Keep dead trees at hand

Woodpeckers fancy dead drees that easily bear holes and carry heaps of larvae for them to feast on

Plant native fruit-bearing plants and trees

Most woodpecker species savor fruits and berries like strawberry, cherry, bayberry, dogwood, grapes, blueberries, apples, brambles, mulberry, and more.

Never forget the water

Like any other birds, these feathery creatures tend to use bird-baths. So, always have a water source ready, preferably with a solar fountain or water mover to draw their attention.