7 Species of Woodpeckers in Ohio (with pictures)

Woodpeckers in Ohio

Woodpeckers are medium-sized birds who are known for the drum-like sound they make while pecking branches of trees with their beak. These birds are found in abundance throughout the world, with over 22 different species residing in the United States itself.

In the state of Ohio, you can find seven species of woodpeckers. In this article, we are going to talk about each of these birds, their appearance, sound, and every fascinating fact we could gather about them.


Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Picoides pubescens
Body length – 14-18 centimeters (5.5-7.1 inches)
Wingspan – about 25-31 centimeters (9.8-12.2 inches)
Weight – about 20-33 grams
Lifespan – about 12 years
Diet – Omnivore, Insectivore

Out of all the different species of woodpeckers who inhabit North America, the Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest in size. Being roughly 6 inches long, these woodpeckers are most widespread among all woodpeckers and are most commonly spotted by the bird-watchers, both in Ohio and in the United States.

Downy Woodpeckers have a checkered black and white wing pattern, which looks very much similar to that of the Hairy Woodpeckers. For this reason, many bird enthusiasts consider these birds to be a smaller version of the latter.

They have a white head with prominent black stripes around it, white neck, and underparts. The males have a red patch at the back of their heads, which is not found in their female counterparts. The juvenile Downy Woodpeckers display a bright red cap on their head.

Their tail wings are white with black spots over them. They have a relatively short bill that appears to be grey in color. Their legs are white as well, with sharp claws.

The calling sound of the Downy Woodpeckers is a soft, high-pitched “pik”. However, they are also known to produced an accelerating, whinny sound of “kee kee kee kee”.

Downy Woodpeckers are non-migratory birds who prefer to reside in deciduous woodlands. You can also find these birds at home in parks and vacant lots. These are one of the woodpeckers who often come to the backyard bird feeders looking for food and water.


Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Sphyrapicus varius
Body length – 19-21 centimeters (7.5-8.3 inches)
Wingspan – about 34-40 centimeters (13.4-15.8 inches)
Weight – about 35 to 62 grams
Lifespan – about 7 years
Diet – Omnivore (tree sap, insects, and fruits)

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are the only Sapsucker who inhabit the eastern parts of North America. They are medium-sized woodpeckers who were first discovered and described by Mark Catesby, an English naturalist in 1729 in his book The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands.

These birds are related to the Red-naped and the Red-breasted Sapsuckers, but display lesser red than the two. They have red on their forehead, the males having a brighter shade than their female counterparts. The throat and chin of the males are also red, while they are white in the females.

The males have a white breast and rump, while the females have dull yellow underparts. Both sexes have black wings with white bars. Their beaks are straight, short, and chisel-tipped, with a slate-black color. Their legs are grey with a tint of blue or green in them.

The male Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers have a nasal calling sound that goes like “neaaah” or “wee-wee wee-wee”. In order to attract their females, they make a “kwee-urk” sound at the beginning of the breeding season.

In their groups, they use “wurp wurp” or “week week” to exchange pleasantries. When they are in a conflict with other birds, they produce a shrill “quarr”.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are migratory birds who do not breed in Ohio but migrate to the state during winters. You can spot these birds in the south-western parts of Ohio in the winter season.


Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Melanerpes carolinus
Body length – 22-26 centimeters (about 9-10 inches)
Wingspan – about 38 to 46 centimeters (15-18 inches)
Weight – about 56 to 91 grams
Lifespan – about 12 years
Diet – Omnivore, Insectivore

The name of Red-bellied Woodpeckers is quite deceiving since these woodpeckers have a faded reddish tinge on their bellies, which is fairly difficult to spot, especially from a distance or in flight.

Instead, they have a remarkable red spot on their head that helps bird-watchers in identifying them. These woodpeckers are closely related to the Red-headed Woodpeckers, although the two look very different from each other.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are medium-sized birds who have a faded grey head and underparts, while their black wings have thin white stripes all over them. The males have a prominent red cap on their heads, while the females have a red patch at the back of their heads. Both sexes have a short, grey bill.

These birds are among one of the noisiest birds you can find in North America, having a diverse range of calling sounds. Some of these sounds are “churr churr churr”, “thrraa thrra thrraa”, or an alternating “brrrrt” sound.

They also produce a conversational sound of “chiv chiv” when they are among their own. The baby Red-bellied Woodpeckers have a begging call of “pree pree pree”.

To make their nest, the Red-bellied Woodpeckers look for trees with a softer wood, such as willow, maple, or elm tree. They also like to nest in trees that are old and decaying. To warn other birds away, they drill holes all around their nest.

You can find the Red-bellied Woodpeckers all over Ohio at any given time of the year. These birds are non-migratory and nest in the state throughout the year.


Red-Headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Melanerpes erythrocephalus
Body length – 19-25 centimeters (7.5-9.8 inches)
Wingspan – about 42 centimeters (16 inches)
Weight – about 56 to 90 grams
Lifespan – about 9 years
Diet – Omnivore (berries and insects)

Endemic to temperate North America, the Red-headed Woodpeckers have been given a number of different names such as “Patriotic bird”, “Flag bird”, “Jellycoat”, “Flying checker-board”, “Shirt-tail bird”, etc. They are medium-sized tricolored birds, containing red, black, and white.

Their head and neck are covered with dark red, while their underparts are totally white with shiny, black, white-tipped wings. The juvenile Red-headed Woodpeckers look similar, but lack the bright red shade and have a grey head instead.

Although all kinds of nuts and berries are a favorite of these birds, they are popular for being aerial hunters, a trait that is hardly found in any woodpecker. They hunt for insects in their flight. The main source of their food is foraging on the ground, which is why these birds prefer to inhabit orchards and farms.

Here, they can find both insects and fruits to feed on. You can also find them feeding on rodents like mice, rats, or the eggs of other birds occasionally. Red-headed Woodpeckers are one of the four Woodpecker species who tend to catch and store food in their nests, the others being Downy, Acorn, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers.

Red-headed Woodpeckers are as noisy as they are colorful, making sounds like “queer” and “tchur tchur”.

While the northern population of the Red-headed Woodpeckers are migratory and travel in groups towards the south during winter, those who live elsewhere, including Ohio, are non-migratory and can be found in their habitats all year round.

Due to loss of habitat, these woodpeckers were rated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to be a Near Threatened Species until 2018, but have been moved to the Least Concern list now.


Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Leuconotopicus villosus
Body length – 18-26 centimeters (7-10 inches)
Wingspan – about 33 to 43 centimeters (13-17 inches)
Weight – about 40 to 95 grams
Lifespan – about 20-30 years
Diet – Omnivore (tree sap and insects of the wood)

Found all across North America, the Hairy Woodpeckers are said to be one of the most energetic woodpeckers you can find in Ohio. Although they are not migratory by nature, sometimes, when the winter climate of Ohio gets a bit too harsh for them, they do move to a southern place for a few months.

The head, upperparts, and wings of these birds are black, with paler underparts ranging between white to sooty brown. They have two white bars on their face, one above the eyes and one below it.

The male Hairy Woodpeckers have a red patch at the back of their head, while the juveniles have a red or orangish red on their crown. Their bills are shorter than their head with a pointed edge.

Due to their large size, the Hairy Woodpeckers prefer to nest in larger trees. They inhabit the mature deciduous forests and are non-migratory, except the population who lives in the extreme northern regions who travel south during winters. Their calling sounds are “peek peek peek” or “pee-ik pee-ik”.

Although they have been moved to a threatened list by the IUCN, their population is steadily declining due to the loss of old-growth trees which they inhabit.


Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker - eBird

Scientific name – Colaptes auratus
Body length – 28-36 centimeters (11-14 inches)
Wingspan – about 42 to 54 centimeters (17-21 inches)
Weight – about 85 to 178 grams
Lifespan – about 5 to 6 years
Diet – Omnivore (nuts, fruits, and insects)

Endemic to the Cayman Islands, Cuba, and most parts of Central and North America, the Northern Flickers are among the few woodpecker species which are migratory in nature.

Due to their varied calling sounds, people of different regions call them with different names such as “Gaffer Woodpecker”, “harry-woodpecker”, “Gawker bird”, “Clape”, “Yarrup”, etc. These birds were first discovered in 1729 by Mark Catesby, a profound English naturalist. They have 10 subspecies, one of which is believed to be extinct now.

Northern Flickers have a dull brown body with a black patch on their back and wings. On their breast is a bold, black-colored crescent. Their underparts are white, with the males having a malar mark which their female counterparts lack. The flight feathers of these birds are golden in color.

Apart from their unique appearance, you can also use the voice of the Northern Flickers to identify them. While their flight, they make a rolling sound of “whurdle” or “wirr”.

In a large group, these birds make a “wick-a wick-a wicka” sound to interact with each other. During breeding seasons, they make a series of “wick wick wick” sounds on the ground. Other sounds made by them are “klee-yer” and “keew”.


Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker | Audubon Guide to North American Birds

Scientific name – Dryocopus pileatus
Body length – 40-49 centimeters (16-19 inches)
Wingspan – about 66 to 75 centimeters (26-30 inches)
Weight – about 250 to 400 grams
Lifespan – about 13 years
Diet – Omnivore (nuts, fruits, and insects)

Out of all the woodpecker species who inhabit North America, the Pileated Woodpeckers are considered to be the largest species. They’re certainly the largest woodpeckers you can find in Ohio.

Similar in size to a crow, these birds are lovers of the carpenter ants. They dig large, rectangular holes in trees while looking for food. Often, the holes made by them lead to the old-growth trees breaking in two.

They nest in the deciduous forests found in eastern North America. They are called “pileated”, which means to be capped, because of the red crest atop their head.

The Pileated Woodpeckers are entirely covered in black, with a few white stripes on their face and white bars on their wings. When they are making holes in trees, these birds make a loud hammering noise, which is used by many bird enthusiasts to locate them. They are non-migratory birds that can be found in Ohio all year long.


Woodpeckers in Ohio (Final thoughts)

If you keep a bird feeder in your backyard, you would certainly want woodpeckers to come and feed in it, wouldn’t you? But how would you manage to do it?

The first thing you can do is put black sunflower seeds in your feeder. The woodpeckers love these seeds and would be drawn to them. If you have an old, decaying tree in your backyard, it can benefit you as well.

Woodpeckers love dying trees in which they can easily create holes. Some fruits that can attract woodpeckers to your bird feeder are tupelo, elderberries, grapes, brambles, apples, etc.


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