Seven Kentucky woodpeckers find some type of suitable habitat in Kentucky. Unfortunately the traditional eighth of the Kentucky woodpeckers, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker disappeared from the state over fifteen years ago. According to the Kentucky Extension Service,
No individuals are known to live in Kentucky today; previous to 2001, occupied sites were known to occur only in the Daniel Boone National Forest – Laurel, McCreary, Pulaski, and Whitley counties in particular; because of widespread habitat destruction by the southern pine beetle, the few remaining red-cockaded woodpeckers were moved to South Carolina in 2001 by the U. S. Forest Service
Woodpecker popularity partially comes about because they enjoy living in and around residential areas. That makes them great photography subjects. Share your woodpecker pictures and stories with the community.
The birds button on the left leads to additional identification info.
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 Kentucky.
They are not very wide spread or abundant in Kentucky. Most of the population lives in mountain forests. It’s always a treat for a birder to see one in the larger cities such as Louisville.
They are described as both shy and adapted to human environments. Their attitude toward humans probably depends on the particulars of their territory. In instances where they breed and live in non-residential areas, they can be shy. There are also ample examples of their being enticed to backyard bird feeders.
Most areas of Kentucky host Yellow-shafted Northern Flickers. Flickers are the 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.
Popular birds, they are welcome at many 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.
Red-bellied woodpeckers are the second of the two wide-spread Melanerpes woodpeckers. They are larger than average birds with an outgoing personality. They easily adapt to backyard feeders and their loud vocalizations can often be heard through the neighborhood.
Physically, the name red-bellied can be a bit misleading because the stomach feathers have barely a hint of red to them. The back and top of the male’s head is red. The female’s head is buffy and 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.
Red-headed woodpeckers rank as the most wide spread of the Melanerpes species, with a presence in almost every state from the Rocky Mountains and destinations east. It’s 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.
The smallest and most common of Kentucky woodpeckers is the Downy Woodpecker. It adapts equally well to most wilderness and residential areas with trees.
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.
Hairy woodpeckers are also present in Kentucky, however they are not very abundant. The picture provides a good comparison of the Downy and Hairy and highlights the fact they Hairy Woodpeckers have a larger bill.
Kentucky Woodpeckers: Sapsuckers
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the most far ranging of all the native sapsucker species. It breeds across Canada from Coast to Coast and in the winter returns to most forested areas west of the Rocky Mountains.
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.