Nine species of woodpeckers belong to the Picoidae genera in the United States and Vermont hosts four of them. It’s probably easy to break down the population into two sets of very similar looking species.
Start with the Downy and Hairy woodpeckers, the two most common Vermont woodpecker species.
With the exception of physical and bill size, the first two pictures show almost lookalike birds. Both have a black and white feather pattern.
The picture of the male Hairy woodpecker highlights the longer bill. It also serves to remind everyone that Downy and Hairy woodpeckers are one of the most common woodpeckers found at backyard feeders.
Black-backed and Three-toed woodpeckers also look similar. They have mostly black feathers and males have a yellow patch of feathers on the head.
Neither would be categorized as a common feeder bird.
Black-backed woodpeckers live their lives in forests, especially those that suffer some type of damage. They nest in dead or downed trees and consumer insects such as wood-boring beetles that are common in damaged forests.
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.
Yellow-shafted Northern Flickers are a common sight in many of Vermont’s rural and residential ares.
They 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 mustache 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.
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.
Red-bellied woodpeckers are the most wide spread Melanerpes species in Vermont. Following regional population trends, the Red-bellied population in Vermont has been increasing for well over a decade.
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. Females lack the red crown but do have a patch of red feathers on the back of the neck.
Red-headed woodpeckers rank as the most wide spread of the Melanerpes species. Unfortunately that does not extend into Vermont where breeding bird surveys show little rEd-headed presence, with the exception of the Lake Champlain Valley area.
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.
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the most far ranging of all the native sapsucker species. It breeds across Canada from Coast to Coast and in the winter returns to most forested areas west of the Rocky Mountains.
Males have a red crown and throat. Females only have a red crown. It’s very easy to identify in its East Coast territories.