Florida Woodpeckers: Pictures and Information

picture of a Golden Fronted woodpecker

Florida Woodpeckers don’t particularly stand out in the Florida bird world. The state’s beaches provide the perfect territory for the water birds and shorebirds that make the most impression on the tourist population.

Resident Florida birding enthusiasts might ask, have you seen the woodpecker pictured at the top of the page?

It’s called a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and it’s range is limited to Texas and Oklahoma. On rare occasions, it makes a stop in the state and creates some excitement. On other occasions, a few species might be misidentified. For example, in the summer 1986 edition of American Birds, the article, Female Golden-fronted Woodpecker or mutant female Red-bellied Woodpeck noted a small rash of misidentified species in South Carolina. The author claimed,

With the exception of the tail, the plumage patterns of the female Redbellied and Golden-fronted woodpeckers are similar. Obviously, the tail pattern is often overlooked as an important field mark.

Here’s a brief run down of the states eight additional species that span all five native woodpecker genera.

Woodpeckers: Picoides


picture of a female downy woodpecker, part of the Florida woodpeckers series
Picoides are the most diverse woodpecker genera in the United States with nine species. Florida counts three of them as native breeding species including the Downy Woodpecker. It’s the smallest and most common Picoides and it’s found in neighborhoods up and down the peninsula. It also adapts equally well to more wilderness areas and parks. If there’s a tree, there’s the possibility of a Downy woodpecker.

Physically, the Downy’s black and white feather pattern resembles the slightly larger Hairy Woodpecker. Males have a red crown on the head, females, like the one pictured at the top of the page, do not.

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 Hairy Woodpecker, credit: David Mitchell, Flickr
Everything written in the previous section applies to 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.

picture of a Red-Cockaded Woodpecker
The Red-cockaded woodpecker moves the conversation from some of the most common Florida woodpeckers to the least common. In fact, it’s the only woodpecker species on the Endangered Species List.

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.

Tourists can see the bird at a variety of parks where the habitat is protected. Here are three examples.

  • Blackwater River State Forest
  • Apalachicola National Forest
  • Ochlockonee State Park

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 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.

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. In the northernmost area of their range they are a summer resident for breeding and then migrate south for the winter.

Sapsuckers


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.

Flickers


picture of a uellow-shafted Northern Flicker
Flickers (genus Colaptes) rank as one of the most common woodpeckers in the United States. They have a presence in every single state, and they adapt to residential areas with little trouble.

Florida hosts the Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker. 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.

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. That fact partially explains their range. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission,

Of the 7 species of woodpecker nesting in Florida, the Pileated Woodpecker is the third most common, exceeded in abundance only by Red-bellied Woodpecker and the Downy Woodpecker. Many people will be surprised to learn that the Pileated Woodpecker is more widespread than the Northern Flicker or the Red-headed Woodpecker, but the Atlas data show that this is clearly the case.

Tourists to the Sunshine state can keep their eyes peeled to the trees for a look at this wonderful bird.

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