Wisconsin Woodpeckers: Pictures and Information

picture of a red-bellied woodpecker, one of the common Wisconsin woodpeckers

Think of them as ubiquitous birds. At least six, maybe seven of Wisconsin woodpeckers are very common sights in residential areas and parks around the state. In their own special way, they help the residents mark the seasons.

The two Melanerpes species, Red-bellied and Red-headed woodpeckers exemplify the trend. Red-bellied woodpeckers, pictured above, are larger than average birds that easily adapt backyard feeders. Their loud vocalizations can often be heard through the neighborhood.

Woodpecker popularity partially comes about because they enjoy living in and around residential areas. That makes them great photography subjects.

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 nape of the neck.

picture of Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-headed woodpeckers come to Wisconsin during the breeding season and enjoy the grasses and woodlands of the central and southern areas of the state, especially areas with oak groves because they consume acorns.

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.

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-shafted Northern Flicker
The Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker, one of two subspecies, walk the grounds of many Wisconsin lawns as they search for ants and other insects. The name refers to the color of the underwings. Males have a black mustach.

As the picture shows, they can also show up at the back yard feeder. Photographing them can be fairly straight forward. They will stay calm if approached slowly.

Woodpeckers: Dryocopus

picture of a Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated woodpeckers are Wisconsin’s largest woodpecker species and easy to identify by the red crested head and white stripes across the face.

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: Picoides

picture of a Black-backed Woodpecker
Black-backed woodpeckers are probably the most rare woodpecker species in Wisconsin.

They have been documented on a few sites in the northern forests of the state.

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.

picture of a downy woodpecker
The Downy and Hairy woodpeckers are the two most common of the nine woodpecker species in the genus Picoides. They are also very similar looking except for overall size and bill size.

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 Hairy Woodpecker at the feeder, credit David Mitchell, Flickr
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.


picture of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the most far ranging of all the native sapsucker species. It’s a very common breeding bird in the upper portion of Wisconsin.

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.

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