Nevada Woodpeckers: Pictures and Identification Guide

Nevada is geographically situated so as to make Nevada woodpeckers a real treat for residents and tourists.

The desert areas of the state attract some less than common Southwest species and the mountain areas attract some of the less than common northern species. Everywhere else in the state attracts the more common woodpecker species, translating into a whopping thirteen woodpecker species covering all five native woodpecker genera.

Las Vegas, one of the tourist hot spots in the state, is also a gateway for seeing some uncommon woodpecker species during a day trip away from the casinos. Reports of nearby Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Williamson’s Sapsuckers, Red-naped Sapsucker and Lewis’s Woodpeckers should be enough to attract the attention of most East Coast birders not familiar with these species.

Flickers (genus Colaptes) are common throughout Nevada. They are ground feeders of the woodpecker family, with a taste for ants. 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.

picture of a male Gilded Flicker Woodpecker
The Gilded Flicker is Arizona’s second Colaptes species. It’s a regional specialty bird of the Arizona desert. The picture shows the gray face and red mustache of the male and it’s similar to the look of the male Red-shafted Northern Flicker. The yellow wings under the tail resemble the yellow wings of the Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker.

Recently a small breeding population was discovered in southern Nevada. Not much else is known about the bird’s history in Nevada. There are occasional sightings.

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.

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.

Woodpeckers: Melanerpes

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 White Headed Woodpecker
Common names mean something, so it’s no surprise that the White-headed Woodpecker has a distinctly white feathered head. The picture also highlights the white wing bars. There’s no mistaking it in the wild. It’s a regional specialty bird that inhabits the forest areas of the greater Pacific Northwest.

picture of a Black-backed Woodpecker
Most Americans are unfamiliar with the Black-backed woodpecker. They are not your typical feeder bird. Rather their preferred habitat is the Northern Boreal forests, especially those that suffere some type of damage. That’s the case because their diet consists rimarily of insects, especially wood-boring beetles that flock to large dead and moribund trees.

Black-backed woodpecker populatons necessarily are links to habitat changes. In times of abundant food, populations thrive. Unfortunately in times where forest areas recover, their populations decrease.

They are cavity nesters, similar to other woodpeciers. As the picture highlights, the yellow crown on the male distinguishes them from the typical red crown of more common woodpecker species. Females have a black crown.

picture of a Three-toed Woodpecker
When the woodpecker discussion turns to climate, the American Three-toed Woodpecker gets the nod as the most hardy of the native woodpecker species. It breeds farther north than any other American woodpecker.

Physically it resembles the Black-backed Woodpecker, although it’s a bit smaller with a shorter bill. Otherwise, the black and white bars on the back and presence of a yellow crown on the male are similar. Female has solid black crown.

Populations in the far north and high mountains may migrate to the valleys, and on rare occurrences even further south, during the winter. Otherwise, they are not known as a regular migratory species. Their life in the woods means they are not known as a common backyard feeder bird.

picture of a downy woodpecker
North America’s most diverse woodpecker genera, Picoides, records nine separate species. 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.

picture of a male ladder-backed woodpecker
Less wide ranging, the Ladder-backed woodpecker (Picoides scalaris) 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 picture two also have a red cap. Ladder-backed Woodpeckers look very similar to Nuttall’s Woodpecker, another Picoides species. However, Nuttall’s are limited to the coastal areas of California.

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.

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.


picture of a red-naped sapsuckerThe 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.

picture of Red-breasted Sapsucker
Four sapsucker species (Sphyrapicus) drill their wells in trees from coast to coast.

The Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber), pictured, the West Coast variant, spend their summers in higher elevation forests near rivers and streams. Some populations migrate down to the valleys during winters.
picture of a Williamson's Sapsucker
Williamson’s Sapsuckers inhabit the mountain areas of the West, including the Rocky Mountains, the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada.

Of special interest is that males and females diverge in their physical appearance. Males, like the one pictured, have distinct black feathers on the head, complimented by white striped and a red throat. Females have brown feathers on the head and and black and white barred feather pattern on the body. Both sexes have yellow bellies.