Colorado Woodpeckers: Pictures and Information

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picture of a red-bellied woodpecker, part of the Colorado Woodpeckers section

Colorado woodpeckers follow an ecosystem pattern similar to other species. The Rocky Mountains divide the state into an east of the Rockies, west of the Rockies and Rocky Mountains. The most common species such as Downy Woodpeckers and Flickers have bridged the divide. However the bulk of Colorado’s fourteen woodpecker species adhere to it.

The picture at the top of the page shows a Red-bellied Woodpecker, one of the east of the Rocky mountain species.

The specific topic button on the left leads to information suited to answering additional bird identification questions.

Woodpeckers: Melanerpes


Red-bellied woodpeckers are the second of the two wide-spread Melanerpes woodpeckers. They are larger than average birds with an outgoing personality. As the picture shows, 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.

picture of Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-headed woodpeckers rank as the most wide spread of the Melanerpes species, with a presence in almost every state from the Rocky Mountains and destinations east. It’s physical appearance translates into easy identification. 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.

Look for the also east of the Rocky Mountains.

picture of a Lewis's Woodpecker
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.

In the wild, they consume a variety of common insects in their territory, including ants, bees and wasps. In fall and winter, they focus on acorns and fruit, so rural homeowners in their territory might be able to entice them to the feeder. Otherwise, they are not categorized as your typical feeder bird.

picture of a posing Acorn Woodpecker
No one outside the state talks much about the presence of Acorn Woodpeckers. According to Colorado Field Ornithologists there is a breeding colony in La Plata County.

Woodpeckers: Picoides


picture of a Three-toed Woodpecker
When the woodpecker discussion turns to climate, the 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.

It might take a bit of searching, however you can find them at the Rocky Mountain National Park.

picture of a downy woodpecker
North America’s most diverse woodpecker genera, Picoides, records nine separate species. The smallest and most common Picoides, the Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) adapts equally well to most wilderness and residential areas with trees.

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 ladder-backed woodpecker
Less wide ranging, the Ladder-backed woodpecker (Picoides scalaris) makes its home in a variety of Southwest habitats, from cacti to forest areas. A pattern of striped feathers on the back and spots on the breast provide initial identification marks. Males, like the one in picture two also have a red cap. Ladder-backed Woodpeckers look very similar to Nuttall’s Woodpecker, another Picoides species. However, Nuttall’s are limited to the coastal areas of California.

In that small area where the species overlap, the two species are known to inter-breed.

picture of a Hairy Woodpecker
Everything that is written about the Downy Woodpecker can be written about the Hairy Woodpecker with few caveats. The picture highlights the most important caveat, they have a larger bill than the Downy. Otherwise, the black and white striped face, white belly and back feathers look very similar. Males also have a red crown.

They are a very common species across the United States because they are adaptable to forests and residential areas alike. Look for them at the backyard feeder.

Woodpeckers: Sapsuckers


picture of a red-naped sapsuckerThe Red-naped Sapsucker picks up its 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 Sapsuckers winter in Mexico, and central America. When they migrate to the valleys they are often seen in residential areas.

picture of a Williamson's Sapsucker
Williamson’s Sapsuckers inhabit the mountain areas of the West, including the Rocky Mountains, the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada. Visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado have the opportunity to see them.

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.

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 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. There might be some overlap with the Red-naped Sapsucker territory. The presence of red feathers on the back of the neck differentiates the Red-naped Sapsucker from the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

They are not known to be common backyard feeder birds, only occasional.

Colorado Woodpeckers: Flickers


picture of a red-shafted Northern Flicker
Flickers (genus Colaptes) rank as one of the most common woodpeckers in the United States and the most common of the Colorado woodpeckers.

Both subspecies, the Red-shafted and Yellow-shafted are presnet. The color designation refers to the under the wing color of their tail and wing feathers.

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 red 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.

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