South Carolina Woodpeckers: Pictures and Information

picture of a red-shafted Northern Flicker

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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 South Carolina woodpeckers story begins with the Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker. It might be the most common woodpecker in the state, especially in the winter months when the breeding populations from northern states begin to migrate.

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 black 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.

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 need some dense forested area for habitat, so that fact limits their range in South Carolina.

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 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.

picture of Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-headed woodpeckers might rank as the most wide spread of the Melanerpes species, however it has come under a bit of stress in South Carolina. The Department of Natural resources remarks,

In rural areas, nesting habitat of Red-headed Woodpecker populations has decreased due to agricultural development, river channelization, firewood cutting, and clear cutting … Felling of dead trees and branch cutting has decreased habitat suitability in urban areas

They are hard to spot in the western portions of the state. In the east, when they are present, they are very easy to spot. 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.

Woodpeckers: Picoides

picture of a Red-Cockaded Woodpecker
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.

In South Carolina the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests host a thriving population.

picture of a male downy woodpecker
Downy and Hairy woodpeckers also reside in South Carolina. Physically they look very similar. Overall size along with bill size are the standard field identification clues.

The Downy’s black and white feather pattern resembles the slightly larger Hairy Woodpecker. Downy Woodpeckers typically have small bills. Males have a red crown.

picture of a Hairy Woodpecker, credit David Mitchell, Flickr
The Hairy Woodpecker picture highlights the comparatively larger bill. Otherwise, the black and white striped face, white belly and back feathers look very similar. Males also have a red crown.

Both species adapt to 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 across Canada and migrates to many areas of South Carolina during the winter months.

Males have a red crown and throat. Females only have a red crown. It’s very easy to identify in its East Coast territories.

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