Woodpeckers, Piculets, & Wrynecks

eurasian Wryneck
Ochre-collared Piculet
Eurasian Wryneck
Ochre-collared Piculet
(Photo: Arthur Grosset)

Woodpeckers are small, medium and medium-large sized, for the most part, arboreal birds, generally recognizable by their physiology and habits. Typically, woodpeckers have chisel-like bills that are used primarily for excavating nest and roost holes in trees and other suitable plant material. They also have zygodactylous toes (2 pointing forward, 2 pointing backward) and stiff rectrices (tail feathers). These qualities allow them to traverse vertically.

There are 28 genera and 215 species.

Range and Habitat
(rust color indicates range)

Picidae has a near cosmopolitan distribution; excepting the Australian region, the Pacific, Madagascar, Ireland and the extreme polar regions. This family is generally found in most wooded areas of the world but can be found in semi-wooded, open woodland, desert/scrub habitats. A few species of Flickers prefer treeless foothill habitat.

Status in the Wild

The IUCN Red List 2001 shows:

Imperial Woodpecker Critical
Ivory-billed Woodpecker Critical
Cuban Flicker (Fernadina’s) Endangered
Okinawa Woodpecker Critical
Knysna Woodpecker Near Threatened
Stierling’s Woodpecker Near Threatened
Olive-backed Woodpecker Near Threatened
Andaman Woodpecker Near Threatened
Black-bodied Woodpecker Near Threatened
Yellow-browed Woodpecker Near Threatened
Tawny Piculet Near Threatened
Rusty-necked Piculet Near Threatened
Mottled Piculet Near Threatened
Helmeted Woodpecker Vulnerable
Red-cockaded Woodpecker Vulnerable
Ochraceous Piculet Vulnerable
Speckle-chested Piculet Vulnerable
Red-cockaded Woodpecker Endangered
The Ivory-bill and Imperial woodpeckers are thought to be extinct.  In the last 30 years the two largest species of woodpeckers have been all but lost!

Courtship and Egglaying

Generally, the courtship and egglaying is as follows: Pairs may remain loosely together until breeding season arrives.  At which time some aspects of bonding may occur during nest excavation. All in all the courtship of Picidae could be described as unceremonial. Only a handful of species take part in mutual feeding or preening. 

All species lay eggs in nest cavities. The true woodpeckers and the piculets excavate nest holes for laying eggs.  Wrynecks will use old woodpecker holes or resourcefully, a deep crotch or open crevice. 

Both sexes serve in some fashion in prepping the nest site (in some species the males do most of the excavation).  An average of 2-5 white, roundish, eggs are laid (some species lay as few as 2 and others as many as 10) and both sexes will incubate in most cases. Incubation ranges between 11-14 days.  Both parents will feed the chicks and fledging occurs between 18-30 days; after which the young may remain with the parents until the end of the season or until a second clutch is laid. Some species will form small family groups throughout the year.


The wryneck diet is almost exclusively ants and their larvae and pupae. They will also take spiders, small beetles, termites and occasionally berries.

There is very little data regarding the diet of piculets in the wild. What data is available is admittedly incomplete. These include primarily ants, beetles, larvae, soft insects and spiders. There is an urgent need for data in this category.

Woodpeckers feed primarily on but not limited to: ants, beetle species, spiders, moths, grasshoppers, crickets, and larvae. They also feed on nuts, seeds, berries, sap, plant material and crop plants such as corn. Many species are also adapted to flycatching.

White woodpeckers
White Woodpeckers
(photo: A Grosset)

White-headed Woodpecker
White-headed Woodpecker
(photo: USFWS)
Golden-backed Woodpecker
Common Flameback
aka Golden-backed Woodpecker
(Dinopium javanense)
on exhibit
(Photo: Memphis Zoo)


Movement and Migration

The piculets are generally sedentary. The Eurasian wryneck (Jynx torquilla) is a true migrant; doing so mainly at night. European and west Asian populations will winter in the savannas and drier areas of western and central Africa. Eastern populations will do so in the Indian subcontinent and SE Asia. Breeding occurs across the Palearctic from Europe and boreal Asian to Japan. Some breeding may occur in western Asian and northern Africa.

Only a handful of woodpeckers are true migrants. The extreme is the yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) moves seasonally from across Canada and the NE United States to the SE U.S. and Central America. Other species may move within a proverbial home range seasonally.  J. deGraauw 01/05


Winkler, H. and Christie, D. 1995.  Woodpeckers: An Identification Guide to the Woodpeckers of the World.  Houghton Mifflin Co.  New York, USA

Perrins, C. M., Middleton, A.L.A. 1989.  Woodpeckers, pp. 296-303, The Encyclopedia of Birds.  Equinox Ltd.  New York, USA.


Eurasian Wryneck
Jynx torquilla
Rufous-necked Wryneck
J. torquilla ruficollis
Speckled Piculet
Picumnus innominatus
Speckle-chested Piculet
P. steindachhneri

Mottled Piculet
P. nebulosus

Bar-breasted Piculet
P. aurifrons
Varzea Piculet
P. varzeae

Plain-breasted Piculet
P. castelnau

Orinoco Piculet
P. lafresnayi pulmilus
White-barred Piculet
P. cirratus cirratus

Fine-barred Piculet
P. subtilis

Lafresnaye’s Piculet
P. l. lafresnayi
Ocelated Piculet
P. c. dorbygianus

Olivaceous Piculet
P. olivaceus olivaceus

Golden-spangled Piculet
P. exilis
Ochre-collared Piculet
P. temminckii

Greyish Piculet
P. o. granadensis

Ecuadorian Piculet
P. sclateri
White-wedged Piculet
P. albosqumatus

Chestnut Piculet
P. cinnamomeus

Scaled Piculet
P. squamulatus
Rusty-necked Piculet
P. fuscus

African Piculet
Sasia Africana

White-bellied Piculet
P. spilogaster
Rufous-brested Piculet
P. rufiventris

Rufous Piculet
S. abnormis

Guianan Piculet
P. minutissimus
Tawny Piculet
P. fulvescens

White-browed Piculet
S. ochraea

Spotted Piculet
P. pygmaeus
Ochraceous Piculet
P. limae

Antillean Piculet
Nesoctites micromegas

The species highlighted below are ones that have a current TAG status.  Our goal is to eventually have information on every Piciformes species.

White Woodpecker
Melanerpes candidus

Japanese Spotted Woodpecker
Same as Pigmy Woodpecker*

Chestnut-colored Woodpecker
C.  elagans castaneus

Lewis’s Woodpecker
M. lewis

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
D. minor

Chestnut Woodpecker
C. elegans elegans

Guadeluope Woodpecker
M. herminieri

Brown-breasted Woodpecker
D. auriceps

Pale-crested Woodpecker
C. e. lugubris

Puerto Rican Woodpecker
M. portoricensis

Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker
D. macei macei

Blond-crested Woodpecker
C. e. flavescens

Red-headed Woodpecker
M. erythrocephalus

Stripe-breasted Woodpecker
D. m. atratus

Cream-colored Woodpecker
C. flavus

Acorn Woodpecker
M. formicivorus

Yellow-crowned Woodpecker
D. mahrattensis

Rufous-headed Woodpecker
C. spectabilis

Black-cheeked Woodpecker
M. pucherani pucherani

Arabian Woodpecker
D. dorae

Ringed Woodpecker
C. torquatus

Golden-naped Woodpecker
M. p. chrysauchen

Rufous-bellied Woodpecker
D. hyperthyrus

Helmeted Woodpecker
Dryocopus galeatus

Yellow-tufted Woodpecker
M. cruentatus cruentatus

Crimson-breasted Woodpecker
D. cathpharius

Pileated Woodpecker
D. pileatus pileatus

Yellow-fronted Woodpecker
M. c. flavifrons

Darjeeling Woodpecker
D. darjellensis

Lineated Woodpecker
D. p. lineatus

White-fronted Woodpecker
M. cactorum

Middle-spotted Woodpecker
D. medius

Black-bodied Woodpecker
D. p. schultzi

Hispaniolan Woodpecker
M. striatus

White-backed Woodpecker
D. leucotos

White-bellied Woodpecker
D. javensis javensis

Jamaican Woodpecker
M. radiolatus

Great-spotted Woodpecker
D. major major

Andaman Woodpecker
D. j. hodgei

Golden-cheeked Woodpecker
M. chrysogenys

Syrian Woodpecker
D. m. syriacus

Black Woodpecker
D. martius

Grey-breasted Woodpecker
M. hypopolius

White-winged Woodpecker
D. m. leocopterus

Powerful Woodpecker
Campephilus pollens

Yucatan Woodpecker
M. rubricapillus pygmaeus

Sind Woodpecker
D. m. assimilis

Crimson-bellied Woodpecker
C. haematogaster

Red-crowned Woodpecker
M. r. rubricapillus

Himalayan Woodpecker
D. m. himalayensis

Red-necked Woodpecker
C. rubricollis

Gila Woodpecker
M. uropygialis

Striped Woodpecker
Picoides lignarius lignarius

Robust Woodpecker
C. robustus

Red-bellied Woodpecker
M. carolinus carolinus

Checkered Woodpecker
P. l. mixtus

Pale-billed Woodpecker
C. melanoleucos guatemalensis

West Indian Woodpecker
M. c. supercillaris

Nuttall’s Woodpecker
P. scalaris nuttalli

Crismson-crested Woodpecker
C. m. melanoleucos

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
M. aurifrons aurifrons

Ladder-backed Woodpecker
P. s. scalaris

Guayaquil Woodpecker
C. m. guayaquilensis

Hoffman’s Woodpecker
M a. hoffmanii

Downy Woodpecker
P. pubescens

Cream-backed Woodpecker
C. leucopogon

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Sphyrapicus varius varius

Red-cockaded Woodpecker
P. borealis

Magellanic Woodpecker
C. magellanicus

Red-naped Sapsucker
S. v. uchalis

Strickland’s Woodpecker
P. stricklandi

Imperial Woodpecker
C. principalis imperialis

Red-breasted Sapsucker
S. v. ruber

Hairy Woodpecker
P. villosus

Ivory-billed Woodpecker
C. p. principalis

Williamson’s Sapsucker
S. thyroideus

White-headed Woodpecker
P. albolarvatus

Banded Woodpecker
Picus mineaceus

Cuban Green Woodpecker
Xiphidiopicus percussus

Three-toed Woodpecker
P. tridactylus

Lesser Yellownape
P. chlorolophus chlorolophus

Fine-spotted Woodpecker
Campethera nubica punctuliger

Black-backed Woodpecker
P. arcticus

Crimson-winged Woodpecker
Picus c. puniceus

Nubian Woodpecker
C. n. nubica

Scarlet-backed Woodpecker
Veniliornis callonotus

Greater Yellownape
P. mentalis flavinucha

Bennet’s Woodpecker
C. n. bennettii

Yellow-vented Woodpecker
V. dignus

Checker-throated Woodpecker
P. m. mentalis

Reichenow’s Woodpecker
C. n. scriptoricauda

Bar-bellied Woodpecker
V. nigriceps

Streak-breasted Woodpecker
P. xanthopygaeus

Golden-tailed Woodpecker
C. notata abingoni

Smoky-brown Woodpecker
V. fumigatus

Scaly-bellied Woodpecker
P. squamatus

Mombasa Woodpecker
C. n. mombassica

Little Woodpecker
V. passerinus passerinus

Japanese Woodpecker
P. awokera

Knysna Woodpecker
C. n. nonata

Dot-fronted Woodpecker
V. p. frontalis

Wavy-bellied Woodpecker
Same as above

Little Green Woodpecker
C. maculosa caillautii

White-spotted Woodpecker
V. spilogaster

Eurasian Green Woodpecker
P. viridis viridis

Tullberg’s Woodpecker
C. tullbergi

Blood-colored Woodpecker
V. sanguineus

Levillant’s Woodpecker
P. viris vaillantii

Buff-spotted Woodpecker
C. nivosa

Red-rumped Woodpecker
V. affinis kirkii

Red-collared Woodpecker
P. rabieri

Brown-eared Woodpecker
C. caroli

Choco Woodpecker
V. a. chocoensis

Black-headed Woodpecker
P. erythopygius

Ground Woodpecker
Geocolapates olivaceus

Golden-collared Woodpecker
V. a. cassini

Grey-faced Woodpecker
P. canus

Little Grey Woodpecker
Dendropicos elachus

Red-stained Woodpecker
V. a. affinis

Grey-headed Woodpecker
Same as above

Speckle-breasted Woodpecker
D. poecilolaemus

Yellow-eared Woodpecker
V. a. maculifrons

Olive-backed Woodpecker
Dinopium rafflesii

Abyssinian Woodpecker
D. abyssinicus

Rufous-winged Woodpecker
Piculus leucolaemus simplex

Himalayan Woodpecker
D. j. shorii

Cardinal Woodpecker
 D. fuscuscens

Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker
P. l. callopterus

Common Flameback
Dinopium. j. javanense

Melancholy Woodpecker
D. gabonensis lugubris

Lita Woodpecker
P. l. litae

Black-rumped Flameback
D. benghalense

Gabon Woodpecker
D. g. gabonensis

White-throated Woodpecker
P. l. leucolaemus

Greater Flameback
Chrysocoloptes lucidus

Stierling’s Woodpecker
D. stierlingi

Golden-green Woodpecker
P. chrysochloros chrysochloros

White-naped Woodpecker
C. festivus

Bearded Woodpecker
D. namaquus

Crimson-mantled Woodpecker
P. rivolii

Pale-headed Woodpecker
Gecinulus grantia grantia

Fire-bellied Woodpecker
D. pyrrhogaster pyrrhogaster

Black-necked Woodpecker
Colaptes atricollis

Bamboo Woodpecker
Gecinulus g. virdis

Golden-crowned Woopecker
D. p. xantholophus

Spot-breasted Woodpecker
Coloptes punctigula punctigula

Okinawa Woodpecker
Sapheopipo noguchii

Elliot’s Woodpecker
D. elliotii

Green-barred Woodpecker
C. p. melanochloros

Maroon Woodpecker
Blythipicus rubiginosis

Grey Woodpecker
D. goertae goertae

Northern Flicker
C. auratus auratus

Bay Woodpecker
B. pyrrhotis

Grey-headed Woodpecker
D. g. spodocephalus

Gilded Flicker
C. a. chrysoides

Orange-backed Woodpecker
Reinwardtipicus validus

Olive Woodpecker
D. g. griseocephalus

Fernandina’s Flicker
C. fernandinae

Buff-rumped Woodpecker
Meiglyptes tristis

Brown-backed Woodpecker
D. obsoletus

Chilean Flicker
C. pitius

Black and buff Woodpecker
M. jugularis

Sulawesi Woodpecker
Dendrocopos maculatus temminckii

Andean Flicker
C. rupicola

Buff-necked Woodpecker
M. tukki

Philippine Woodpecker
D. m. maculatus

Campo Flicker
C. campestris

Grey and buff Woodpecker
Hemicircus concretus

Brown-capped Woodpecker
D. moluccensis nanus

Rufous Woodpecker
Celeus brachyurus

Heart-spotted Woodpecker
H. canente

Sunda Woodpecker
D. m. moluccensis

Cinnamon Woodpecker
C. loricatus

Ashy Woodpecker
Mulleripicus fulvus

Malaysian Pygmy Woodpecker
Same as Sunda Woodpecker*

Scaly-breasted Woodpecker
C. undatus grammicus

Sooty Woodpecker
M. funebris

Grey-capped Woodpecker
D. canicapillus

Waved Woodpecker
C. u. undatus

Great Slaty Woodpecker
M. pulverulentus

Pygmy Woodpecker
D. kizuki


*Explanatory text goes here when name is same:


Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
(Melanerpes aurifrons)
Photo: Dave Behrens


Golden-fronted woodpecker range

Range of the Golden-fronted Woodpecker:
Southward from SW Oklahoma through central and W Texas, E and central Mexico including the Yucatan peninsula (including Cozumel and Turneffe Islands) into W Honduras (including Utila, Roatan and Barbareta Islands) and NW Nicaragua.

22-26cm, weight, males 73-99g, females 63-90.  Male: red from forecrown to nape of neck.  Female: red only on nape of neck.

Arid to semi-arid, sparse woodland.  Found in rural and semi-urban areas.  Will frequent mesquite, juniper and oak/mixed areas.

Habits and Diet:
Slightly shy woodpecker that forages on medium to large trunks and limbs.  Will store food when needed.  Consumes insects and larvae such as ants, grasshoppers and wood-boring beetles.  Also eats furits, berries, nuts, acorns and mesquite.

Season from March to June in the U.S.  Central-American sub-species may nest as early as January.  Nest excavated by both sexes in snags and telephone poles from 7m up.  Clutch size is 4-7 eggs.  Incubation by both parents lasts for 12-14 days.  Both parents also feed the young which fledge at about 30 days.  Second and third clutches have been reported.

TAG Status:  DERP

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Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
(Melanerpes carolinus carolinus)
Photo: USFWS

Range of the Red-bellied Woodpecker:
South Dakota east through Michigan to southern Ontario and south to central Texas east to Florida.


24c, 56-91g.  Males are slightly larger and has red on the entire top of head where as on the female it is confined to the nape.

Woodlands, woody swamps, riparian and lowlands with deciduous and/or coniferous species.  Also present in suburban and grove areas where mature and dead trees are present.

Habits and Diet:
Spends most time mainly in or near the canopy but will venture to the ground to feed.  Rather boisterous bird especially in the spring.  It will stash food items in crevices especially prior to winter.  Forages for insects including: ants, flies, grasshoppers, spiders and even eggs.  Also consumes seeds, nuts, berries and sap.

Season stretches from late March to August.  The male usually excavates the nest cavity 2-18m above ground usually in dead tree.  Both parents incubate eggs. 3-8 eggs are laid; incubation lasts 12-13 days and chicks fledge in 25-28 days.


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Red-headed Woodpecker

Redheaded Woodpecker
Red-headed Woodpecker
(Melanerpes erythrocephalus)
Photo: Steve Messick


Range of the Red-headed Woodpecker:
From southern Florida, north up the Atlantic Coast to New Brunswick.  Extends west though southern Ontario to Manitoba (Lake Winnipeg) in the north and to central Texas northward through Colorado and Montana.

*lighter color indicates summer range

Sexes alike, females slightly smaller.  Immature birds patterned the same but with drab, grey/brownish tinged head, brownish body with barred breast, tail predominately black.  Bill duller than adult.

Frequents mainly old mature lowland forests with a sufficient amount of dead trees and with relatively open undergrowth.  Basic requisites are old trees for nest sites, open areas for flycatching and access to the ground.  Habitats frequented by this species include various types of wooded savannas, open woodland, riparian forests, pine forests, villages, suburbs, orchards and agricultural lands (Winkler/Christie).

8 ½”- 9 ½” (21-24cm), weight 56-97g(Winkler/Christie).

Habits and Diet:
Prefers heights of 12-18m.  Forages ‘on the wing’ for flying insects but also gleans at various levels including on the ground.  They will store food items during winter months.  Omnivorous, this bird consumes animal matter during warmer months (including: earthworms, crickets, beetles, caterpillars, moths, butterflies, wasps, and even lizards and nestlings.  Winkler notes that flying insects are a more important food items than wood-boring larvae.  Also consumes wide variety of fruits, seeds and bark.

Season spans from April to September.  Predominately nesting in pairs there is some evidence of complex breeding units.  Nest holes have been measured from 2m to 25m in usually barkless trunks or limbs of a variety of species of trees.  The male excavates nest hole.  Four to five eggs are laid from April to June.  Both parents incubate for 12-13 days; they also both share all rearing duties.  The young fledge in about 30 days at which point the pair may begin a second brood.

TAG Status:  DERP

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Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker
(Melanerpes formicivorus)
Photo: Rob Pavey

Acorn woodpecker range

Range of the Acorn Woodpecker:
Starting in the north from southern Oregon down through western New Mexico to Central America (Columbia).  Into central Mexico and even eastern Mexico.  Winkler/Christie indicate isolated populations occur in Texas.


23cm, 67-89g. Males: crown to nape is red, Females: crown is black with hindcrown red, also bill is 10% smaller.

Oak and Pine-Oak woodland, semi-open woodlands and second growth forests.

Habits and Diet:
Social bird can be seen in groups of up to 15.  Stores acorns that have been gathered on the ground or in trees in crevices of bark and wood.  Holes drilled are reminiscent of sapsucker holes.  Birds glean for insects and also catch flying insects ‘on the wing’.  Consumes acorns, pine nuts, sap, fruits and berries, ants, moths, flies, eggs, and beetles.

Season from April to August.  Nest holes are drilled from 2m to 25m, usually in a well-decayed tree.  Entire groups participate in nest hole excavating.  Clutch size is 4-6.  Females will destroy rival nests/eggs however they can not prevent others laying eggs in their cavity by subordinate females.  Eggs are incubated for 11-12 days and fledging occurs in about 30 days.  The entire group cares for the brood.  Second and third clutches can occur in 2-3 month intervals.


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Black-cheeked Woodpecker

Black-cheeked Woodpecker
Black-cheeked Woodpecker
(Melanerpes percherani)
Photo: Willey Foo

Range of the Black-cheeked Woodpecker: 
Southern Mexico through Central America to western Columbia and western Ecuador.


17-19cm, 42-68g, Male has red over entire crown, females have red on nape only. 

Prefers wet, humid evergreen forests, but also frequents forest edges, semi-open clearings, secondary growth forests and banana plantations.

Habits and Diet:
Generally seen alone or in pairs and occasionally in family groups foraging actively in the mid to upper level of trees.  Probes and pecks tree trunks and limbs and also gleans insects.  It consumes spiders, termites, beetles, grubs, ants, caterpillars as well as large quantities of plant material including: fruits, berries, seeds of bromeliads, nectar from flowers of  the balsa and kapok trees.  Will also take flying insects.

Season is from March to July.  Nest holes are drilled 4-30m up in dead trees or branches.  Clutch size is 2-4 eggs; both parents incubate.  Hatching occurs at 14 days and young fledge in about 21 days.  In captivity, it is noted that, the parents will start a second clutch while tolerating their first young still in the area.


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Gila Woodpecker

Gila Woodpecker
Gila Woodpecker
(Melanerpes uropygialis)

Gila woodpecker range

Range of the Gila Woodpecker:
From southern California, southern Arizona, southern Nevada and New Mexico then south to Baja along the Pacific slope and highlands in Mexico south to Chalisco.

21.5-24cm, 51-81g (males 20% heavier than females).  Males: small red patch in center of forecrown.  Females: lack red crown, smaller body and shorter bill.

Arid and mesic areas with scattered trees and cacti.  Also found in riparian woodlands (especially Cottonwood), plantations and sub-tropical forests (Winkler/Christie).

Habits and Diet:
Forages in trees, shrubs, cacti and on the ground.  Boisterous bird that will mob other bird species.  Omnivorous, this specie will consume grasshoppers, ants, beetles, larvae and even small lizards; and fruits, cacti, berries, plantation fruits and vegetables as well as nectar from feeders and flowers.

Season is from April to June.  Both sexes excavate holes in palm snags or a cactus from 3m to 10m high.  Clutch size is 3-6 eggs.  Both sexes assist in feeding young.  A second clutch may start in late July.

TAG Status:  DERP

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Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
(Sphyrapicus varius varius)
Photo: Purdue University
*Insert shows sap wells in trunk of tree


Range of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker:
Highly migratory; from spring to early fall it resides from northeastern British Columbia to Newfoundland, down into New York through the Appalachians to east Tennessee and northwest Georgia.

Winters as far south as Panama and into the West Indies.

*lighter color indicates summer range


23cm, 67-89g. Males: crown to nape is red, Females: crown is black with hindcrown red, also bill is 10% smaller.

Lives in northern deciduous and mixed coniferous forests in the summer; desires the presence of aspen Populus, an important nesting tree, other important tree species being birch Betula and hickory Carya.  Winters in forests, usually not in pure conifer stands, and forest edge and various semi-open habitats, at whch season found in montane forests.  Visits larger trees in pastures, clearings, semi-open sites, and even suburban areas; occasionally, and during passage, in lowlands and castal palm groves.  In Puerto Rico, inhabits sparsely wooded areas, though it may well occur in mountain forests.  On Grand Cayman, common in grape-almond woodland in winter (Winkler/Christie).

Habits and Diet:
Inconspicuous bird that is fairly solitary although small groups may form during migration.  Seen from 1m to under canopy where it drills shallow holes for sap and bast.  These holes may be arranged vertically or horizontally on the trunk or limbs.  Sap and cambium are a part of their diet as well as ants, arthropods, will also flycatch as well as consume berries and fresh buds off of trees.

Mainly uses live trees to excavate nest holes 3-14m from the ground.  The male usually excavates the hole in about 22 days.  Clutch size is 2-5 eggs.  Both parents incubate eggs for 12-13 days and chicks fledge at around a month.


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Black-headed Woodpecker

Blackheaded Woodpecker
Blackheaded Woodpecker
(Picus erythropygius)
Photo: National Aviary

Range of the Black-headed Woodpecker:
Burma south to Tenasserim and eastward through northwest and central Thailand, southern Laos and Cambodia, to Viet Nam.


33cm, 100-135g. Males slightly larger, females lack red on forecrown, which is entirely black. In immature birds there is less yellow and an overall shades of buff especially on throat and breast.

Prefers deciduous forests, especially dry dipterocarp and open scrub country (Winkler/Christie). Uncommon above 600m. 

Habits and Diet:
Relatively shy but extremely active, it can be seen in small groups foraging in the canopy and under story and even descending to the ground. Appears to prefer termites and ants (Winkler/Christie). More research needed.

Nesting season apparently February to June (Winkler/Christie). More research needed.


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Common Flameback Woodpecker

Common Flameback Woodpecker
Common Flameback Woodpecker
(Dinopium javanense)
Jee Lian Huat


Range of the Common Flameback Woodpecker:
SW India, throughout SE Asia (except N Burma), Sumatra, Java, Bali, Borneo and the western Philippines.


28-30cm, 67-90g.  Male has red crown and crest, female has white streaked black crown with crest.  A three-toed woodpecker.

Common in moist and secondary and open forest, deciduous woodland, scrub and mangroves.  Also found in teak forests and at higher elevations in pine forests.

Habits and Diet:
Frequently occurs in pairs and can join mixed species flocks.  Found at all heights in habitat but prefer lower sections of trees.  Food foraging occurs through gleaning, probing, and pecking as well as hawking for passing insects.  Diet consists of ants, insect larvae, small scorpions, cockroaches and other insects.

Season spans from February to June and can also occur in July, November and December in portions of its range.  Nest is excavated low (mostly below 5m) in a tree trunk or stump in open areas.  Clutch consists of 2-3 eggs.


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Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
(Picoides pubescens)
Photo: Michael Woo


Range of the Downy Woodpecker:
Inhabits most of wooded areas of North America, from central Alaska eastward to Newfoundland and southern California to Florida in the south excepting non-forested areas.


15-17cm, 20-32grams.  Male has red patch from hindcrown to nape. Females lack red on hindcrown  and is replaced with black or white streaked pattern.

Deciduous forests and woodlands. Will frequent second growth forests as well as suburban and park areas with mature trees. In the southwest US prefers riverine woodlands and aspen/willow stands in coniferous areas.

Habits and Diet:
Generally, solitary.  Forages in a variety of habitats preferring live trees and limbs at all heights of the forest.  Pecking and hammering for food is common and will flycatch. Feeds mainly on insects and wood-boring beetle larvae, bark beetles, spiders, ants, moths an some berries; will also visit feeders.

Courting may start in winter months. Eggs are laid in April in south and May-June in British Columbia. Nests are drilled into dead trees preferably.  Females tend to select site while male does most of the excavating and completes a hole in 13-20 days. Clutch size is 4-5 eggs, both parents, incubate, brood and feed upon hatching at 12 days.  Chicks leave the nest at about 23 days. Can double brood in a season.

See our "Useful Links" page for additional information about this bird.  

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Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Red-cockaded woodpecker
Red-cockaded Woodpecker
(Picoides borealis )
Photo: USFWS


Range of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker: 
A patchwork of distribution from southern Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia and north and central Florida.  Westward to Oklahoma and Texas and north to Kentucky.  Their distribution coincides with the occurrence of long-leaf pine savanna; specifically Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris), Slash Pine (P. elliottii), Shortleaf Pine (P. echinata) as well as Loblolly Pine (P. taeda), Pitch Pine (P. rigda) and Pond Pine (P. serotina).  It is thought to be now extirpated from Maryland, New Jersey and Tennessee. 


22cm, 40-55g,Male has tiny red streak of feathers on each side of its hind-crown/nape area. The female lacks the red streak.

Open pine and pine-oak forests.  Will also use adjacent stands of cypress and orchards for foraging; may also frequent cornfields, when earworms are present for the same purpose. Does not frequent hardwood forests, or in general, prefers not to nest where hardwood under-storey is present.

Habits and Diet:
Navigates through tracts of forest singly, in pairs or groups.  Forages mainly on mature pine trunks by prying bark off trees. Will also flycatch. Each bird drills a nest hole for roosting which can take up to a month to complete. The availability of habitat can determine success in group size and breeding. Some trees contain up to five individual roost holes.  These concentrations of this specie are called clusters. The holes are known for the sap wells drilled by the birds around their roost holes; the sticky, mildly toxic, whitish resin oozing down the trunk of the tree.  Theories on the reason for this habit range from a defense mechanism to the birds being able to recognize their particular hole. This interesting habit means the bird must use live trees for drilling; yet have softened heartwood caused by the fungal disease Phellinus pini. In the unique ecosystem that they live in red-cockaded woodpeckers provide roost holes for many species such as: other woodpecker species, bluebirds and flying squirrels. Therefore competition for holes can be tight.

Insects and larvae, arthropod larvae, wood roaches, ants, beetles, moths, spiders, damselflies, millipedes, fruits, and berries are the general diet. Pine nuts are a winter preference.

Generally pairs reproduce but can have ‘helpers’ within the territory for assisting with chick rearing. Males often remain in the territory while females may leave on their own or are chased out; perhaps to avoid incest. Nest holes, which are usually the males roost hole, are drilled 9-15m but have been recorded as low as 2 ½ feet and as high as 80 feet from the ground. Artificial cavities are also used. The season stretches from late April to early June. Clutch size is 1-5 eggs. Both parents incubate.  Males usually brood overnight.  Even some nest helpers have been recorded with brood patches.  Hatching occurs around day 10 and both parents feed the chicks.  Helpers are as attentive to nest hygiene, brooding and feeding as the parents. The young fledge at 27-29 days.  They are fed for up to six months afterwards by the parents and helpers. Second broods occur but not often.

USFWS estimates about 5000 groups or 12,500 total birds left


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Strickland Woodpecker

Strickland Woodpecker
Strickland's Woodpecker
(Picoides stricklandi)
Photo: Robert Shantz


Range of the Strickland’s Woodpecker:
SW Arizona south through western Mexico (Sonora, Chihuahua, Sinaloa and from Durango to Nayarit and Jalisco.

18-20cm, 34-51g. Males slightly larger with slightly longer bill with red on nape. In females the red on the nape is replaced with brown. Immature birds are duller overall.

Pine-oak woodlands of Arizona and western Mexico. Further south this specie resides in mountainous pine, fir, oak and cypress woodlands. 

Habits and Diet:
Generally alone but can be found in pairs. Forages in pines on trunks, branches and twigs by probing and gleaning. When pecking and hammering it will sometimes use feet to remove loosened bark. Mainly feeds on insects, especially beetle larvae), some fruits and seeds.

Nesting occurs in April-May. Both sexes excavate nest hole in a totally dead or dead section of tree 3-15m. 3-4 eggs are laid and both sexes incubate and tend to young which stay with as a family group until late summer.


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Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
(D. pileatus pileatus )
Photo: Juan A. Pons

Range of Pileated Woodpecker

Range of the Pileated Woodpecker:
From southern British Columbia eastward to Nova Scotia.  From forested North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas eastward to the Atlantic coast and northward.  Also extends from BC south into Washington and central California and Idaho and Montana.

40-48cm, 250-340grams.  Male has red from forecrown to nape of neck and red mustache. Female has red from forecrown to crown only and lacks red mustache.  Juveniles are greyer with throat grayish or streaked.

Prefers mature, tall, deciduous and/or coniferous forests of open to dense nature.  Will inhabit second growth areas with some large trees.  In the last 25 years has been found in suburbs and parks with large, mature trees.

Habits and Diet:
Seen usually alone or in pairs.  Very boisterous bird that feeds at all levels of the forest.  Forages primarily on dead wood.  During winter months pecking/hammering comprise almost 95% of their foraging activities.  Will probe and glean for food and also pluck fruit from branches.  Known for its loud call and undulating flight.  Carpenter ants make up most of its diet but will also consume wood-boring beetle larvae, termites, caterpillars, fruits, berries and nuts.

Courtship may start as early as winter with eggs laid from April to June.  Nest cavities are excavated each year by both sexes.   Hole is drilled from 4-30m up in a tall, dead or old, living tree trunk in about 25 days.  2-4 eggs are laid; both parents incubate (male usually at night) and brood the young.  Chicks are fed by regurgitation.  The young fledge at about 28 days with both parents feeding after they leave the nest.  The family group may stay together until the fall.


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Nothern Flicker

Northern Flicker
Northern Flicker
(Colaptes auratus)
Photo: USFWS

Range of the Northern Flicker:
Population is very expansive over North America (in every mainland state of the USA).  Has populated many islands in the Florida Keys, Cuba, Grand Cayman. 

Northern birds migrate into the USA during winter from Canada as far south as Texas, northern Mexico and Florida to islands south of there.

*lighter color indicates summer range


30-35cm, 121-167g.  Males are slightly larger and have a pronounced black mustache stripe which the female lacks.

Prefers an open forest to treeline habitat where it can frequent the ground.  Common in suburban areas.  In Mexico, pine-oak forests are favored, in Honduras it is a second growth cloud forest dweller.  In its island territories can be found in mangroves, grape-almond plantations.

Habits and Diet:
Often found in pairs or small groups foraging on the ground.  In the forest they will search for food in dead trees.  Will also visit shrubs and undergrowth.  Diet consists of ants primarily but also prefers caterpillars, termites, larvae, crickets and grasshoppers, spiders and will also catch flying insects on the wing.  Berries, nuts and seeds also make up an important part of their diet.

Breeding occurs February to July.  Nest holes are excavated in dead trees or stubs, in 5-19 days, from ground level to 27m.  Because this specie isn’t as inclined to excavate holes males will often choose abandoned holes or even cliffsides, haystacks and fence poles.  4-9 eggs are usually laid and are incubated for 11-12 days; both parents share incubation duties.  Chicks are fed by regurgitation.  They fledge at 25-28 days and stay with parents, forming small family groups, for the season; even if another clutch is laid (Winkler/Christie).


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