New York Woodpeckers: Pictures and Information

picture of a downy woodpecker

New York woodpeckers are one group of a handful of woodland birds that live year round or migrate through the state. Of course New York’s woodland vary across the state, so there are a few regionally placed woodpecker species.

Fortunately the majority of New York woodpeckers are not woodland edge sensitive, and can live in tree lined residential areas throughout the state. New York city, provides a great example of that sort of woodpecker adaptability.

New York City birders need go no further than Central Park to see six different woodpecker species. The Downy, pictured at the top of the page, and Red-bellied are the most commonly seen year round residents.

  • Red-headed Woodpecker
  • Red-Bellied Woodpecker
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker

Downy and Hairy woodpeckers look very similar. Downy Woodpeckers, the smaller of the two, also have a smaller bill.

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.

The Central Park six woodpecker species, along with three additional species constitute the New York woodpeckers population. Here’s a quick run down of the remainder.

Woodpeckers: Picoides

picture of a Black-backed Woodpecker
Picoides rank as the woodpecker genera with the most species, nine. New Yorkers are fortunate to have four of them. In addition to the common Downy and Hairy woodpeckers, the northern areas of the state, the Adrindock Mountains, host the less common Black-backed and Three-toed woodpeckers.

Their limited range menas most New Yorkers with Black-backed woodpeckers. They are fairly easy to find in fire damaged forests as they fly from tree to tree in search of wood-boring beetles. In times of abundant food, populations thrive. Unfortunately in times where forest areas recover, their populations decrease.

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
American Three-toed woodpeckers look similar to Black-backed woodpeckers. 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.

They have a slightly different habitat preference. gets the nod as the most hardy of the native woodpecker species. It breeds farther north than any other American woodpecker. 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 yellow-shafted Northern Flicker, the only flicker species on the New York woodpeckers list
Yellow-shafted Northern flickers adapt to residential areas with little trouble.

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.

New York 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. They are not present in either New York city or Long Island. Otherwise they are fairly common in the rest of the state.

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 red-bellied woodpecker
Red-bellied woodpeckers are common year round residents in most areas of the state. They are also very adapted to residential areas, so most New Yorkers recognize them as part of the family of regular backyard feeder birds. Their loud vocalizations can often be heard through the neighborhood.

Both genders have some red feathers on the head. The male has the red crown. There is a slight red hue to the stomach feathers, hence the name.

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 may not be as common as the related Red-bellied woodpeckers. Nonetheless, their stark appearance, head filled with red feathers contrasted against a white stomach, is a welcome site in residential areas around the state.

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 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
The Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers breed in the northern parts of New York and also migrate to southern areas of the state during the winter.

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 categorized as common backyard feeder birds.

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