Nebraska Woodpeckers: Pictures and Information

picture of a male Red-shafted Northern Flicker, one of two subspecies of flickers or Nebraska woodpeckers

Good news and bad news applies to Nebraska woodpeckers and Nebraska woodpecker enthusiasts. The good news is that over the course of time, Nebraska residents have experienced the thrill of seeing a dozen different types of woodpeckers. The bad news is that half of the species are accidential visitors or very rare.

Here’s how theBirds of Nebraska describes those six species.

  • Lewis’ Woodpecker: A vagrant and rare summer resident in the Pine Ridge area.
  • Acorn Woodpecker: Accidental.
  • Williamson’s Sapsucker: Accidental. There are three sight records for the state.
  • American Three-toed Woodpecker: Accidental in Nebraska, with a single specimen record.
  • Black-backed Woodpecker: Accidental. There are three early records from Nebraska
  • Pileated Woodpecker: Very rare local resident.
Here’s a quick run down of the six more common woodpecker species.


picture of a yellow-shafted Northern Flicker
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.

Nebraska is an interesting flicker state. The west hosts the Northern-shafted subspecies. The east hosts the Yellow-shafted subspecies. There’s no doubt a hybrid group of flickers also in the state.

They are year round residents in the state, best known as 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.

Nebraska Woodpeckers: Melanerpes

picture of a red-bellied woodpecker in a tree cavity
Red-bellied woodpeckers are year round residents in most parts of the state and common backyard feeder birds.

Physically, the name red-bellied can be a bit misleading because the stomach feathers show only hint of red to them. Males have a 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.

picture of Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-headed woodpeckers are fairly common throughout 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.

Most of the Nebraska popultions tends to migrate south for the winter months.

picture of a downy woodpecker
Downy and Hairy woodpeckers are probably the most common of the Nebraska woodpeckers. The pictures also show that they look very similar.

Downy Woodpeckers, the smaller of the two, also have a smaller bill. The picture shows a female Downy without the red patch of feathers on the head.

picture of a male Hairy Woodpecker
Compare the picture of the Hairy with the Downy and the larger bill of the Hairy woodpecker becomes obvious. Otherwise, the black and white striped face, white belly and back feathers look very similar. Males also have a red crown.

Both species are comfortable in forests and residential areas alike. Look for them at the backyard feeder.


picture of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the most far ranging of all the native sapsucker species. It breeds as far north as Canada and southern areas of the state see winter migrating populations.

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.

They are not known to be common backyard feeder birds.

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