North America’s most diverse woodpecker genera, Picoides, records nine separate species. Most accounts of Louisiana woodpeckers will list three of those species, with the Red-cockaded species receiving the most attention because of it’s status as an endangered species.
In 2011 Louisiana woodpeckers make some news with the Louisiana Ornithological Society documenting the first ever sighting of a Ladder-backed woodpecker in the state.
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 more bird ID information.
The only woodpecker species on the Endangered Species List, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker makes its home in the mostly longleaf pines of the Southern United States. Habitat encroachment severely limited their range and breeding capabilities.
Physically it is a medium sized woodpecker with a common barred black and white feathers. A black cap and nape surrounding white facial feathers are the best field identification clues. Males have red stripes across the crown. The were called cockades after a 19th century hat fashion.
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, in Louisiana,
The longleaf pine and grassy understory on Big Branch Marsh NWR is home for multiple breeding pairs of RCWs. Today’s RCW populations, especially small ones, will not increase to viable sizes without human intervention. Several management techniques have been responsible for increasing RCW populations. The refuge uses prescribed fire to maintain existing longleaf pine habitat, and installation of artificial tree cavities also directly benefits the small population of RCWs found here.
The smallest and most common Picoides, the Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) 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.
A short, gentle “pik” and a squeaky descending “kikikikiki” growing faster to the end are the common calls of this bird.
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.
They are a very common species across the United States because they are adaptable to forests and residential areas alike. Look for them at the backyard feeder.
Flickers (genus Colaptes) rank as one of the most common woodpeckers in the United States. They have a presence in every single state, and they adapt to residential areas with little trouble.
Louisiana hosts the East Coast variant is named the Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker. The color designation refers to the under the wing color of their tail and wing feathers.
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.
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.
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.
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 Red-naped Sapsucker picks up its range where the Red-breasted Sapsucker range ends, the forest areas of the Rocky Mountain region. They are migratory and while some will take to the valleys of the Rocky Mountains during the winter months, many also Sapsuckers winter in Mexico, and central America. When they migrate to the valleys they are often seen in residential areas. They are a very rare species in Louisiana with only two sightings prior to 2014.
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the most far ranging of all the native sapsucker species. Males have a red crown and throat. Females only have a red crown. It’s very easy to identify in its East Coast territories.