Iowa Woodpeckers: Pictures and Information

picture of a Pileated Woodpecker, one of seven Iowa woodpeckers

Pileated Woodpeckers are one of seven Iowa woodpeckers. They are tough to miss, with their above average size, red crested head and white stripes across the face.

Pileated Woodpeckers are habitat adaptable. That fact partially explains their existence in Iowa. As the state developed and forests cleared for agrculture and human development, the habitat of the Pileated woodpecker in the state decreased. According to Iowa Audubon,

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.

Woodpecker popularity partially comes about because they enjoy living in and around residential areas. That makes them great photography subjects. Share your woodpecker pictures and stories with the community.

The bird button on the left leads to information suited to answering basic identification questions. Now back to the woodpeckers.

Flickers


picture of a red-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.

Although instances of hybridization continues to be a subject of technical discussion, for practical purposes it’s fine to point out that only two flicker species have been documented. The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) is the species most familiar to Americans and it divides into western and eastern subspecies. The West Coast variant is named the Red-shafted Northern Flicker and the East Coast variant is named the Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker. The color designation refers to the under the wing color of their tail and wing feathers.

Yellow-shafted Northern Flickers are the most common Iowa birds. There are consistent documented sightings of Red-shafted Northern Flickers in Western Iowa. No doubt there are even instances of hybridization between the subspecies.

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 for the Red-Shafted and a black patch or mustache on the cheek for the Yellow-shafted.

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.

Woodpeckers: Melanerpes


picture of a red-bellied woodpecker
Red-bellied woodpeckers are one of two Iowa 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. They are more common in the eastern half of the state.

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 in Iowa. Most are not year round residents, rather they migrate during the spring for the breeding season. 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.

Woodpeckers: Picoides


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.

A short, gentle “pik” and a squeaky descending “kikikikiki” growing faster to the end are the common calls of this bird.

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.

While they are not abundantly documented in Iowa, there are records of them in almost every corner of the state. They adapt to forests and residential areas with woodlots. Look for them at the backyard feeder.

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. In Iowa, they are present in the Northeast part of the state, and only during the summer breeding season.

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