Almost nothing like trees says Oregon and Oregon trees easily translates into a diversity of Oregon woodpeckers.
The dozen species covering all five woodpecker genera makes Oregon a great place for visitors to catch up on the woodpecker life list. In fact, in a good birding season, eleven woodpecker species can be found by taking a quick car ride over to the eastern side of the Cascades.
Consider the fact tat North America’s most diverse woodpecker genera, Picoides, records nine separate species. Five of them live in Oregon. Including the White-headed woodpecker, pictured at the top of the page.
With a head covered by white feathers, there’s no mistaking it in the wild. It’s a regional specialty bird that inhabits the forest areas of the greater Pacific Northwest.
Black-backed woodpeckers, another uncommon species, reside in the Northern Boreal forests, especially those that suffer some type of damage. That’s the case because their diet consists primarily of insects, especially wood-boring beetles that flock to large dead and moribund trees.
Black-backed woodpecker populations 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 woodpecker species. 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.
American Three-toed Woodpeckers typically get introduced as the most hardy of the native woodpecker species. They breed farther north than any other American woodpecker, including in Oregon.
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.
Downy and Hairy woodpeckers are common across the United States, and look very similar.
Downy Woodpeckers, the smaller of the two, also have a smaller bill.
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.
Oregon hosts the West Coast subspecies of the Northern Flicker called the Red-shafted Northern Flicker. Males, like the one pictured are differentiated from females by red patch on the cheek.
While they are mostly ground feeders, scavenging for ants in the lawn, they do take to back yard feeders and especially enjoy a snack of suet and water. With a life span 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.
Six Melanerpes woodpecker species nest among North America’s wooded areas. Oregon hosts two of them.
Acorn woodpeckers are the most common. They inhabit oak groves, spending their days gathering acorns. Once gathered, the acorns get stored in tree holes or nearby wooden structure such as fences and telephone poles.
Unlike most woodpecker species, both the male and female have a red crown.
All 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.
Four sapsucker species (Sphyrapicus) drill their wells in trees from coast to coast. Oregon has three of them.
The dominant West Coast species, 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.
Red-naped Sapsuckers begin their 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 winter in Mexico, and central America. When they migrate to the valleys they are often seen in residential areas.
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.
Like other sapsuckers, they are not typical feeder birds, only occasional.