10 Species of Woodpeckers in Michigan (With Pictures)

You’re in for a treat if you’re a nature enthusiast or bird lover. Michigan has various woodpeckers, each with unique characteristics and ecosystem contributions. In this article, we will introduce you to ten remarkable woodpecker species that call Michigan their home, accompanied by beautiful pictures to enhance your visual experience.

Michigan’s forests and woodlands provide a suitable habitat for various woodpecker species. As skilled excavators, insect hunters, and seed dispersers, these birds are essential to the ecosystem. With their distinct drumming sounds and remarkable adaptations, woodpeckers are a true marvel in the wild.

You can encounter various woodpeckers, including iconic and well-known species such as the Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, and Northern Flicker. Additionally, you may come across the majestic Pileated Woodpecker, the vibrant Red-bellied Woodpecker, and the elusive Black-backed Woodpecker. Each species has unique physical features, foraging techniques, and preferred habitats.

10 Species Of Woodpeckers in Michigan

1. The American Three-toed Woodpecker

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  • Length: 8-9 inches
  • Weight: 2.1-3.4 ounces
  • Wingspan: 15-16 inches
  • Scientific name: Picoides dorsalis

Description and Characteristics: The American Three-toed Woodpecker is a unique and fascinating species found in Michigan. Unlike most woodpeckers, it has only three toes instead of four. This distinctive feature sets it apart from its counterparts. This woodpecker has a subtle yet handsome appearance with its black and white barred back, white undersides, and black face with a yellow patch near the base of the bill.

Habits and Habitat: The American Three-toed Woodpecker prefers coniferous forests, particularly those affected by disturbances like fires or insect outbreaks. They are often found in areas with dead or dying trees, as they feed on the wood-boring insects that inhabit such trees. These woodpeckers are known for their ability to easily move up and down tree trunks, utilizing their specialized toe arrangement for efficient climbing.

Diet and Feeding Behavior: The American Three-toed Woodpecker primarily feeds on wood-boring beetle larvae, ants, and other insects found in decaying wood. They use their strong bills to excavate tree holes and remove the insects with their long, barbed tongues. They are skilled foragers, searching for prey in tree bark crevices and along branches.

Nesting Behavior: When it comes to nesting, the American Three-toed Woodpecker typically chooses a dead or decaying tree, usually near a water source. They excavate their nest cavities in the softer wood of the tree, often at varying heights. The female lays a clutch of 3-5 eggs, and both parents take turns incubating the eggs and caring for the young once they hatch.

2. Red-Headed Woodpecker

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  • Length: 7-9 inches
  • Weight: 2.8-3.2 ounces
  • Wingspan: 16-17 inches
  • Scientific name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus

Description and Characteristics: The Red-Headed Woodpecker is a stunning bird with its vibrant redhead, stark black and white body, and striking white wing patches. Its plumage is truly a sight to behold. This medium-sized woodpecker is sturdy with a chisel-shaped bill, perfect for drumming on trees and extracting insects.

Habits and Habitat: Red-Headed Woodpeckers are found in various habitats across Michigan, including open woodlands, forest edges, orchards, and parks. They are known for their acrobatic skills, easily clinging to tree trunks and hopping along branches. These woodpeckers are also highly territorial and will vigorously defend their chosen nesting and foraging areas.

Diet and Feeding Behavior: Red-Headed Woodpeckers have a diverse diet of insects, fruits, seeds, nuts, and occasionally small vertebrates. They are skilled catchers of flying insects and are often observed swooping through the air to catch their prey. They also store food for later consumption by wedging it into crevices in trees or hiding it under the bark.

Nesting Behavior: When it comes to nesting, Red-Headed Woodpeckers prefer dead trees or cavities. They excavate their own nest holes, usually high above the ground. Both the male and female participate in nest building and incubation. The female lays a clutch of 4-7 eggs, and both parents take turns incubating them. Once the chick hatch, both parents feed and care for the young.

3. The Hairy Woodpecker

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  • Length: 7-10 inches
  • Weight: 2.8-3.5 ounces
  • Wingspan: 13-17 inches
  • Scientific name: Picoides villosus

Description and Characteristics: The Hairy Woodpecker is a common and well-known species in Michigan. It closely resembles its cousin, the Downy Woodpecker, but it is larger. This woodpecker is easily recognizable with its black and white plumage, sturdy bill, and distinct white outer tail feathers. The male and female Hairy Woodpeckers look similar, with the male having a small red patch on the back of its head.

Habits and Habitat: The Hairy Woodpecker can be found in various habitats, including forests, woodlands, parks, and even suburban areas. They prefer areas with mature trees, as they rely on these trees for foraging and nesting. These woodpeckers are known for their drumming behavior, where they rapidly strike their bills against tree trunks to communicate and establish territories.

Diet and Feeding Behavior: The Hairy Woodpecker feeds on a diverse diet consisting mainly of insects, such as beetles, ants, caterpillars, and spiders. They also consume tree sap, berries, and seeds. Like other woodpeckers, they use their strong bills to excavate holes in tree bark, exposing hidden insects. They are skilled climbers and can cling to vertical tree trunks and branches as they search for food.

Nesting Behavior: The Hairy Woodpecker excavates its nest cavity in dead or decaying trees, usually in a vertical or slanting direction. The female lays a clutch of 3-6 white eggs, and both parents take turns incubating the eggs and caring for the hatchlings. The young woodpeckers leave the nest after about a month and continue to be fed by their parents for a few more weeks.

4. Red-Bellied Woodpecker

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  • Length: 9-10.5 inches
  • Weight: 2.8-3.2 ounces
  • Wingspan: 13-17 inches
  • Scientific name: Melanerpes carolinus

Description and Characteristics: The Red-Bellied Woodpecker is a striking bird in Michigan. Despite its name, its belly is not prominently red but has a pale reddish hue. The male and female Red-Bellied Woodpeckers look similar, with a black and white zebra-like pattern on their back and wings. The male also has a red cap extending from the forehead to the nape of the neck.

Habits and Habitat: Red-Bellied Woodpeckers are adaptable and can be found in various habitats, including woodlands, forests, suburban areas, and even parks with mature trees. They are excellent climbers, using their strong claws and stiff tail feathers for support as they ascend tree trunks and branches. They have a distinctive rolling flight pattern and are known for loud vocalizations.

Diet and Feeding Behavior: The Red-Bellied Woodpecker has a varied diet, feeding on insects, fruits, nuts, seeds, and occasionally small vertebrates such as lizards or frogs. They use their long, barbed tongues to extract insects from crevices in tree bark. They also visit bird feeders, especially when suet, nuts, or seeds are available. Their foraging behavior includes tapping and excavating holes in trees to access food.

Nesting Behavior: Red-Bellied Woodpeckers typically excavate their nest cavities in dead or decaying trees, but they may also use nest boxes. Both males and females excavate the nest cavity and incubate the 3-6 white eggs. After hatching, the parents take turns feeding the nestlings a diet of insects.

5. The Northern Flicker

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  • Length: 11-14 inches
  • Weight: 3.9-5.6 ounces
  • Wingspan: 16-20 inches
  • Scientific name: Colaptes auratus

Description and Characteristics: The Northern Flicker is a fascinating woodpecker species in Michigan. This bird has a unique appearance with a combination of brown, black, and white feathers. The males have a black crescent-shaped patch on their chest, while the females have a lighter brown or gray patch. One of the distinguishing features of the Northern Flicker is its vibrant yellow or red underwings, which are visible during flight.

Habits and Habitat: The Northern Flicker is a versatile woodpecker found in various habitats, including woodlands, forests, open fields, and suburban areas. They are ground foragers and often search for ants, beetles, and other insects on the ground, using their long, slightly curved beaks to probe the soil. They also have a distinctive flight pattern with undulating flight and frequent bouts of rapid wingbeats.

Diet and Feeding Behavior: The Northern Flicker has a diverse diet consisting mainly of insects, especially ants, and beetles. They also consume fruits, seeds, and occasionally small vertebrates like lizards or nestling birds. Their foraging behavior includes ground feeding and pecking at trees to find insects or create nest cavities.

Nesting Behavior: Northern Flickers excavate their nest cavities in dead or decaying trees, as well as in man-made structures such as utility poles or wooden buildings. They are known for their “drumming” behavior, rapidly and loudly pecking on resonant surfaces to communicate and establish their territory. Both males and females excavate the nest cavity and raise the 5-8 white eggs. After hatching, the parents feed the nestlings a diet of insects.

6. Black-Backed Woodpecker

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  • Length: 8.5-9 inches
  • Weight: 2.5-3.5 ounces
  • Wingspan: 16-18 inches
  • Scientific name: Picoides arcticus

Description and Characteristics: The Black-Backed Woodpecker is an intriguing woodpecker species in Michigan. As its name suggests, it has a black back with white spots and a white belly. The males have a yellow cap on the top of their heads, while the females have a black cap. They also have a sturdy, chisel-like bill and a long tongue that they use to extract insects from trees.

Habits and Habitat: The Black-Backed Woodpecker is specialized in living in burned forests or areas affected by wildfires. They are well-adapted to these habitats, where they can find an abundance of wood-boring beetles and other insects in dead or dying trees. They are known for their ability to excavate cavities in burned trees, providing important nesting sites for themselves and other cavity-nesting birds.

Diet and Feeding Behavior: The diet of the Black-Backed Woodpecker primarily consists of wood-boring beetles, especially those that infest burned or dead trees. They use their strong bill to chip away at the bark and wood, exposing the insects beneath. They also feed on other insects, such as ants, termites, and spiders, as well as on tree sap and fruits.

Nesting Behavior: Black-Backed Woodpeckers prefer to nest in burned trees or snags, which provide a soft and decaying wood substrate for excavation. Unlike many other woodpecker species, they excavate their nest cavities higher up in the trees. The female typically lays 3-5 white eggs, and both parents take turns incubating them. Once the eggs hatch, both parents feed the nestlings with a diet of insects.

7. The Downy Woodpecker

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  • Length: 5.5-6.7 inches
  • Weight: 0.7-1 ounce
  • Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 inches
  • Scientific name: Dryobates pubescens

Description and Characteristics: The Downy Woodpecker is a charming and petite woodpecker species in abundance throughout Michigan. It has a black and white plumage pattern, a white belly, black wings marked with white spots, and a black cap. One distinguishing feature is the small size of its bill compared to other woodpeckers.

Habits and Habitat: The Downy Woodpecker is highly adaptable and can thrive in various habitats across Michigan, including forests, woodlands, suburban areas, and even city parks. It is often found in deciduous trees, where it can easily search for food and construct its nest cavities. These woodpeckers are acrobatic climbers and can be seen hopping along branches and tree trunks.

Diet and Feeding Behavior: The Downy Woodpecker has a diverse diet, including insects, larvae, spiders, and tree sap. It uses its bill to probe and excavate crevices in tree bark, looking for hidden insects. It also feeds on seeds and berries, especially during the colder months when insects are scarce. This adaptable diet allows the Downy Woodpecker to find food year-round.

Nesting Behavior: Downy Woodpeckers are cavity nesters and excavate their nest cavities in dead tree branches or the trunks of deciduous trees. Both males and females contribute to the excavation process. They typically lay 3-8 white eggs, which both parents incubate. After hatching, the parents take turns feeding the nestlings with a diet of insects.

8. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

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  • Length: 7.5-8.3 inches
  • Weight: 1.5-1.9 ounces
  • Wingspan: 13.0-15.8 inches
  • Scientific name: Sphyrapicus varius

Description and Characteristics: The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a striking woodpecker in Michigan. It has black and white plumage with a vibrant red crown and throat patch in males. Females have a white throat patch instead of red. Both sexes have a yellowish belly, giving them their distinctive name. They also feature a bold black-and-white facial pattern.

Habits and Habitat: Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers prefer deciduous forests, woodlands, and mixed coniferous forests as their habitat in Michigan. They are migratory birds and can be seen in the state during the breeding season. These woodpeckers are often found near areas with sap-producing trees like birch and maple. They are known for their unique habit of drilling rows of small holes in tree bark to feed on the sap.

Diet and Feeding Behavior: The primary food source for Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers is the sap of various tree species. They use their specialized beak to create shallow holes in tree trunks and branches, which allows the sap to flow. They also consume insects that are attracted to the sap, making them a double benefit to the ecosystem. Additionally, they feed on fruits and berries and occasionally capture insects mid-flight.

Nesting Behavior: Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers construct their nests in tree cavities. They excavate these cavities in dead or living trees, often favoring trees with softer wood. The female lays 4-7 white eggs, which both parents incubate. Both parents also participate in raising the young, providing them with food until they fledge and become independent.

9. The Pileated Woodpecker

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  • Length: 16-19 inches
  • Weight: 8-12 ounces
  • Wingspan: 26-30 inches
  • Scientific name: Dryocopus pileatus

Description and Characteristics: The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the largest woodpecker species found in Michigan. It has a striking appearance with a black body, a prominent red crest on its head, and a white stripe that extends from the throat to the bill. The male and female look similar, but males have a red stripe on their cheeks.

Habits and Habitat: Pileated Woodpeckers inhabit mature forests and wooded areas with large trees, making Michigan’s forests an ideal home for them. They are primarily found in areas with abundant dead wood, as they rely on it for foraging and excavating nesting cavities. They are known for their distinctive drumming sound, which echoes through the woods as they communicate and establish territory.

Diet and Feeding Behavior: Pileated Woodpeckers have a diverse diet of insects, fruits, nuts, and even small vertebrates like lizards. They use their strong bills to excavate rectangular-shaped holes in tree trunks in search of carpenter ants and wood-boring beetle larvae. These skilled foragers have a unique way of peeling off bark and chiseling through the wood to reach their prey.

Nesting Behavior: Pileated Woodpeckers construct their nests in large tree cavities, typically choosing dead or partially dead trees. They can excavate impressive nest holes, sometimes reaching depths of up to 2 feet. Both parents participate in incubating the 3-5 white eggs and caring for the young. The fledglings stay with their parents for several weeks after leaving the nest, learning essential skills.

10. The Lewis’s Woodpecker

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  • Length: 10-11 inches
  • Weight: 2.5-3.5 ounces
  • Wingspan: 18-20 inches
  • Scientific name: Melanerpes lewis

Description and Characteristics: Lewis’s Woodpecker is a unique and beautiful species found in Michigan. It has a distinctive appearance with a dark, glossy greenish-black body and a bright red face. Unlike other woodpeckers, it lacks the typical black-and-white pattern. The male and female look similar, displaying the same striking colors.

Habits and Habitat: Lewis’s Woodpeckers are primarily found in open woodlands, forests with scattered trees, and riparian areas, making Michigan’s diverse landscape an ideal habitat. They are known for their aerial acrobatics, as they catch flying insects on the wing. These woodpeckers are often seen perching on exposed branches or utility wires, scanning the surroundings for their prey.

Diet and Feeding Behavior: The diet of Lewis’s Woodpeckers consists of insects, berries, and fruits, and occasionally, they may consume small vertebrates. They are skilled flycatchers known for their unique hunting style, where they catch insects mid-air. They also forage on the ground, searching for ants, beetles, and other insects.

Nesting Behavior: Lewis’s Woodpeckers excavate their nest cavities in dead trees or snags. They may reuse old woodpecker holes or create new ones. The female lays 4-7 white eggs, and both parents take turns incubating them. After hatching, the parents feed the nestlings a diet of insects and berries until they fledge.

FAQ’s

Q1: What are some common woodpecker species found in Michigan?

A1: Some common woodpecker species found in Michigan include the Red-Headed Woodpecker, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Black-Backed Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Pileated Woodpecker, and Lewis’s Woodpecker.

Q2: How can I identify different woodpecker species in Michigan?

A2: You can identify different woodpecker species in Michigan by observing their size, plumage colors, markings, and distinctive features such as head patterns, beak shape, and behavior. Reference guides and birding apps can also help you identify specific species.

Q3: What habitats do woodpeckers prefer in Michigan?

A3: Woodpeckers in Michigan are found in various habitats, including forests, woodlands, open areas with scattered trees, riparian zones, and suburban areas with mature trees. Different species have specific habitat preferences, such as the Pileated Woodpecker favoring large forested areas.

Q4: What do woodpeckers eat in Michigan?

A4: Woodpeckers in Michigan have diverse diets. They primarily feed on insects, such as beetles, ants, and larvae, found in tree bark. They also consume berries, nuts, and fruits, and occasionally, they may eat small vertebrates like lizards or eggs of other birds.

Q5: Do woodpeckers cause damage to trees in Michigan?

A5: Woodpeckers play an important ecological role in managing insect populations, including harmful pests. While they may create holes in trees during foraging or excavating nest cavities, their impact on tree health is minimal. Dead or dying trees are preferred for nesting and foraging, benefiting forest ecosystems.

Q6: Can I attract woodpeckers to my backyard in Michigan?

A6: You can attract woodpeckers to your backyard in Michigan by providing suitable habitat elements. Planting native trees and shrubs that produce berries or nuts, offering bird feeders with suet or nuts, and providing dead trees or nest boxes can make your yard more attractive to woodpeckers.

Q7: Are woodpeckers protected in Michigan?

A7: Yes, woodpeckers, like all native bird species, are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This act prohibits capturing, killing, or disturbing birds, their nests, or eggs without the necessary permits. It is important to appreciate and respect these birds in their natural habitats.

About the author

James Avian : Birds captivate us with their magnificent presence and hold a significant place in cultures worldwide. These enchanting creatures play a vital role in maintaining the balance of land-based ecosystems. They serve as a constant source of inspiration and represent a precious living treasure on our planet. Read more about us here.

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