14 Species of Woodpeckers in Texas (Pictures & Info)

Woodpeckers in Texas

If you are a bird-watcher residing in Texas and are interested in woodpeckers, you are in luck. The state of Texas is home to a number of woodpecker species; some are permanent residents while the others can be seen only in some specific seasons.

Today, we are going to talk about all the 14 woodpecker species you can spot in Texas. We will also discuss their physical traits and calling sounds to help you recognize and differentiate between them.


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)

The Red-headed woodpeckers are medium-sized birds native to the temperate regions of North America. Although they are named “red-headed”, these tricolor birds actually have a shiny crimson head. While their heads and neck are crimson, the underparts of their body are bright white with black wings.

Red-headed woodpeckers are popular aerial hunters and can easily catch small insects in flight. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t like plant materials; they love devouring all kinds of nuts and berries.

Apart from catching food in flight, they also forage on the ground for fallen fruits. They belong to the group of four woodpecker species who store food for later.

People of North America have given these birds different names in different regions, such as “Flag bird”, “Jellycoat”, “Flying checker-board”, etc. These birds make “queer” and “tchur tchur” sounds using which you can locate them.


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)

The Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are closely related to the Red-breasted and Red-naped sapsuckers. The yellow belly that has inspired the name of these birds can only be seen in the females, not the males.

The male Yellow-bellied sapsuckers have a bright white breast and underparts. They have a faded red spot on their head, which is brighter in the males than in their female counterparts.

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers have black wings tipped with white, a short, chisel-tipped bill, and grey legs with a tint of green or blue. These birds produce a variety of sounds. The males have a nasal voice that sounds like “neaaaah” and “wee-wee wee-wee”.

In the breeding season, they court the females making a “kwee-urk” sounds. These birds are not permanent residents of Texas but migrate here in the winter season.


Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker | Audubon Field Guide

Scientific name – Melanerpes formicivorus
Body length – 19-23 centimeters (7.5-9.1 inches)
Wingspan – about 35-43 centimeters (13.8-16.9 inches)
Weight – about 65 to 90 grams
Lifespan – about 10 years
Diet – Omnivore (insects and acorns)

The most significant feature of the Acorn woodpecker’s body is their remarkable, clown-like eyes. These birds have been named after acorns because of their unique tendency to stuff acorns in the tree in holes they drill specifically for the purpose. You can find these birds in the western as well as southern regions of Texas.


Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

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

Scientific name – Picoides borealis
Body length – 18-23 centimeters (7.1-9.1 inches)
Wingspan – about 34-41 centimeters (13.4-16 inches)
Weight – about 40 to 56 grams
Lifespan – about 16 years
Diet – Omnivore (eggs, nuts, seeds, insects, and fruits)

The Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are medium-sized birds which are endemic to the south-eastern United States.

Although they are called “Red-cockaded”, you can barely spot their red cockade, especially from a fair distance. To any bird-watcher, they appear to be black and white. However, upon a closer examination, you will find that the males have a thin red streak on each side of their black cap. The females lack the red cockade.

Red-cockaded woodpeckers are non-migratory birds who can get aggressive about their territory. They ideally build their home in the pine savannahs.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has placed the Red-cockaded woodpeckers in the Near Threatened List.


Gold-Fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Melanerpes aurifrons
Body length – 22-26 centimeters (8-10 inches)
Wingspan – about 42-44 centimeters (16-17 inches)
Weight – about 73 to 99 grams
Lifespan – about 5 to 6 years
Diet – Omnivore, Insectivore (insects and fruits, particularly oranges and jelly)

The Gold-fronted woodpeckers are a species of North American woodpecker species who reside in tropical rainforests, mesquite, and riparian woodlands.

Although most of their body is covered with pale grey feathers, you can easily identify them by the golden patches on their head, neck, and belly. These birds are close relatives of the Red-bellied woodpeckers.

Being omnivores, these birds like eating a variety of fruits and vegetables along with various small insects such as ants and beetles.

Grasshoppers make up a major part of their diet. Although they usually nest in open woodlands, you can also find them residing on fence posts or telephone poles.


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

Although these woodpeckers are called “Red-bellied”, you will find it difficult to spot their belly because of its faded shade. In fact, the red patch on their head is far more prominent than their bellies.

They are medium-sized birds who have a faded grey head and underparts. Their wings are black with several thin white streaks on them. To make their nest, these birds choose trees with softer wood such as elm, maple, and willow trees.

The older the tree, the better they like it. In order to keep other birds away from their nest, they mark the surroundings of it by drilling holes in them.

The calling sounds of the Red-bellied woodpeckers are “chiv chiv”, “churr churr churr”, “thrra thrraa”, etc. You can hear them calling and pecking in Texas during the breeding season.


Red-Naped Sapsucker

Red-naped Sapsucker Overview, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Sphyrapicus nuchalis
Body length – 19-21 centimeters (7.5-8.3 inches)
Wingspan – about 13 to 26.5 inches
Weight – about 32 to 66 grams
Lifespan – about 5 years
Diet – Omnivore, Insectivore

The Red-naped sapsuckers are medium-sized birds who belong to the family of North American woodpeckers. Many ornithologists considered these birds to be a subspecies of the Yellow-bellied sapsuckers.

However, in a recent study, it was found that they have a unique identity that can’t be merged with other woodpeckers. Although tree sap is their staple diet, they can eat berries, seeds, and at times insects, too.

The Red-naped sapsuckers have a red forehead, nape, and throat, while the rest of their body is black with white streaks. Although they are permanent residents of Texas, some of them travel during the breeding season.


Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker - eBird

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)

The Hairy Woodpeckers are popular all over the United States for being one of the most energetic woodpecker species found in America. These birds are non-migratory in nature and can be found in Texas all year round.

They have a black neck and body with pale-white underparts and a short, pointed bill. They produce sounds like “peek peek peek” and “pee-ik pee-ik”.


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

Although the Downy Woodpeckers are among the smallest members of the woodpecker family, they are also one of the most widespread woodpecker species in the Americas.

These birds have a black and white body very much similar to that of the Hairy Woodpeckers, only smaller. You can also recognize them by their distinct calling sound “pik” or “kee kee kee kee”.

Downy woodpeckers inhabit deciduous woodlands and are permanent residents in the north-eastern parts of Texas. They are non-migratory birds who often approach backyard bird feeders in search of food or water.


Ladder-Backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Dryobates scalaris
Body length – 16.5-19 centimeters (6.5-7.5 inches)
Wingspan – about 11-12 inches
Weight – about 198 grams
Lifespan – about 4 to 5 years
Diet – Omnivore, Insectivore

The Ladder-backed woodpeckers are among the smaller members of the woodpecker species who are named after their black and white wings that are patterned like a ladder.

Their underparts are all white with a few black speckles on their rump. On their head is a hairy patch of red. The males are aggressive birds who are often in competition with other males of their own or of other woodpecker species.

The Ladder-backed woodpeckers prefer to reside in dry, bushy areas such as deserts and are permanent residents of Texas. They densely populate the west of Texas and are rarer in the far eastern side. You can spot them easily during summers. However, in the winters, they become less active and are difficult to spot.


Williamson’s Sapsucker

Williamson's Sapsucker Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Sphyrapicus thyroideus
Body length – 21-24 centimeters (8.3-9.8 inches)
Wingspan – about 43 centimeters (17 inches)
Weight – about 44 to 55 grams
Lifespan – about 7 years
Diet – Omnivore (tree sap, insects, and fruits)

The Williamson’s sapsuckers are brightly-colored birds belonging to the woodpecker family. Although their body is covered in black and white feathers, the belly of the male Williamson’s sapsuckers is covered with yellow feathers.

The females look quite different from their male counterparts and have a brown head, a pale-yellow breast, with fine, black bars on their sides and back.

Williamson’s sapsuckers prefer to live in open forests of conifer trees and are partially migratory in nature. These birds are not the permanent residents of Texas and are, thus, not seen in the state during their breeding season. It is only during winters that you can spot them in Texas.


Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated woodpecker - Wikipedia

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)

With their body as long as 19 inches, the Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers you can find in America. They have a red crest on their head, which has led to them being called “pileated”.

Their body is entirely black in color, with the exception of a few white stripes on their sides and wings. They make a loud hammering noise, which helps many bird enthusiasts in locating them.


Lewis’s Woodpecker

Lewis's woodpecker - Wikipedia

Scientific name – Melanerpes lewis
Body length – 26-28 centimeters (10-11 inches)
Wingspan – about 49-52 centimeters (19-20 inches)
Weight – about 88 to 138 grams
Lifespan – about 4 to 11 years
Diet – Omnivore (insects and nuts)

Endemic to North America, Lewis’s woodpeckers are among the largest woodpecker species of America. They were first discovered and described by Alexander Wilson, the American ornithologist, in 1811.

The body of these birds is blackish-green in color, with a touch of red on their chest and a black rump. Their feathers are darkly colored as well. Their face is with a grey collar and upper breast.

Lewis’s woodpeckers have the broadest wings among all the American woodpeckers. They also have a crow-like flight, with slow, even wing flaps. You can find these birds in the north-western areas of Texas in their non-breeding seasons.


Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

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)

Northern Flickers are the woodpeckers who are native to Cuba, Cayman Islands, and Central and North America.

These large woodpeckers are migratory in nature and have a dull brown body with a remarkable black crescent of black on their breast. They have golden-colored flight feathers.

Northern Flickers prefer to reside in open woodlands, but can also be seen nesting in city gardens and parks. When they fly, these birds make a sound like “whurdle” or “wirr”. They use “wick-a wick-a wicka” to converse with their friends, and their breeding season calling sound is “wick wick wick”.


To sum up

Texas is known for harboring a diverse variety of birds, and woodpeckers are no exception to it. The 14 species of woodpeckers who inhabit Texas cover all five native woodpecker genera. If you want to attract these noisy little birds to your backyard, your best option is to put black sunflower seeds in your bird feeder, since those are a favorite of all woodpeckers.