Kansas Woodpeckers: Pictures and Information

picture of a red-bellied woodpecker, part of the Kansas woodpeckers section

Kansas woodpeckers consists of a nice variety of species covering all five native woodpecker genera. Gratography members can easily contribute to the section by registering today.

Anyone looking for additional bird identification can press the button on the left.

Woodpeckers: Melanerpes

Red-bellied woodpeckers are year round residents of most areas in Kansas. They are larger than average birds with an outgoing personality.

Physically, the name red-bellied can be a bit misleading because the stomach feathers have barely a hint of red to them. The picture shows a male, distinguished by red feathers on the neck and crown. The female lacks a red crown. The nape is red.

They belong to the same genus as the Acorn Woodpecker, and like them, they are known to store food in cracks in trees. Their diet also consists of in season fruit, nuts and insects. They easily adapt to backyard feeders and their loud vocalizations can often be heard through the neighborhood.

picture of Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-headed woodpeckers rank as the most wide spread of the Melanerpes species, with a statewide presence in Kansas. They tend to populated western areas of the state during breeding season and tend to be year round residents in the eastern part of the state.

Their physical appearance translates into easy identification. The head, covered in red feathers, along with a white stomach stands out in a crowded woodpecker field. Both males and females share this feature. Juveniles have brown feathers on the head for their first year.

They enjoy open areas with grasses and woodlands, especially oak dominated areas because the consume acorns. Their propensity for nuts also means they are easily enticed to backyard feeders with suet or other healthy nuts such as sunflower seeds.

Woodpecker enthusiasts with backyard feeders can attest to their gregarious nature. They don’t mind flocking in large groups when food is plentiful. In those times, they can be a bit vocal. In the northernmost area of their range they are a summer resident for breeding and then migrate south for the winter.

picture of a Lewis's Woodpecker
Western states provide a very good habitat for a variety of uncommon woodpeckers. Mountains and larger tracks of old growth forest, especially Ponderosa Pine suit the Lewis’s Woodpecker needs.

The picture shows another of the woodpecker’s special features. More than any other native species, the purple to red hue on the feathers of the Lewis’s Woodpecker makes it stand out. The greenish head feathers and gray collar and chest compliment the dark wings and tail.

In the wild, they consume a variety of common insects in their territory, including ants, bees and wasps. In fall and winter, they focus on acorns and fruit, so rural homeowners in their territory might be able to entice them to the feeder. Otherwise, they are not categorized as your typical feeder bird.

Woodpeckers: Picoides

picture of a female downy woodpecker

Downy Woodpeckers might rank as the most common of Kansas woodpeckers. They adapt equally well to most rural and residential areas. If trees are present, they will make themselves a year round home. In residential areas, they are common visitors to backyard feeders.

Physically, the Downy’s black and white feather pattern resembles the slightly larger Hairy Woodpecker. In instances where size comparisons might not be available, experts suggest examining the bill size in relation to the head size. Downy Woodpeckers typically have small bills. Males have a red crown and females, like the one pictured lack the red crown.

picture of a male ladder-backed woodpecker
Less wide ranging, the Ladder-backed woodpecker makes its home in a variety of Southwest habitats, from cacti to forest areas. A pattern of striped feathers on the back and spots on the breast provide initial identification marks. Males, like the one in the picture, also have a red cap.

picture of a Hairy Woodpecker
Everything that is written about the Downy Woodpecker can be written about the Hairy Woodpecker with few caveats. The picture highlights the most important caveat, they have a larger bill than the Downy. Otherwise, the black and white striped face, white belly and back feathers look very similar. Males also have a red crown.

Look for them at the backyard feeder, although double check, because Downy Woodpeckers are more common feeder birds.


picture of a yellow-shafted Northern Flicker
The people of Kansas recognize the Flickers as their ground feeders of the woodpecker family. They prefer open habitats such as fields and residential areas because they supply them with their primary food sources such as insects, seeds and berries. The male is distinguished from the female by the red patch on the cheek.

Kansas hosts both Northern Flicker subspecies. The Red-shafted Northern Flicker, like the one in the picture, populates western areas of the state. The Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker populates eastern areas of the state.

In addition to their insect diet, many visit back yard feeders and especially enjoy a snack of suet and water. With a life that often exceeds the five year mark, homeowners might expect a long term relationship with any flickers they might attract to the back yard feeder.

Woodpeckers: Dryocopus

picture of a Pileated Woodpecker
The red crested head and white stripes across the face makes it difficult to mistake the Pileated Woodpecker for any other species. It’s the only species in the Dryocopus genus in the United Sates and probably the largest woodpecker in any area.

Pileated Woodpeckers are habitat adaptable. That fact partially explains their range. With the exception of the Rocky Mountain states and the Midwest, they can be found from coast to coast. They need some dense forested area for habitat. In the West, they prefer old growth habitat and in the East they can adapt to the younger forests.

Kansas Woodpeckers: Sapsuckers

picture of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the most far ranging of all the four native sapsucker species. It breeds in Kansas and some in the east are year round residents.

Males have a red crown and throat. Females only have a red crown. It’s very easy to identify in its East Coast territories. There might be some overlap with the Red-naped Sapsucker territory. The presence of red feathers on the back of the neck differentiates the Red-naped Sapsucker from the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

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