North Dakota Woodpeckers: Pictures and Information

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picture of a red-shafted Northern Flicker, part of the North Dakota woodpeckers collection

The North Dakota Birdng Society has recent pictures and spotting for nine separate woodpecker species.

  • Lewis’s Woodpecker
  • Red-headed Woodpecker
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Black-backed Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
Here’s a run down of the six most common species.

Northern Flickers 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.

In North Dakota they divide between a western and eastern subspecies. The West Coast subspecies is called the Red-shafted Northern Flicker and the East Coast subspecies is called the Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker. The color designation refers color of the bird’s under wing. It’s especially visible during the sort flights the bird takes.

To make matters more interesting, Northern Flickers also hybridize in North Dakota, meaning that often in the middle of the state one can not be sure one is seeing a Yellow-shafted Northern flicker because the tail feathers might be yellow. Also check for males. Yellow-shafted males have a black mustache, Red-shafted males have a red mustache.

The picture at the top of the page shows a male Red-shafted Northern Flicker with a red mustach.

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: 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. With the exception of the Rocky Mountain states and the Midwest, they can be found from coast to coast. They need some dense forested area for habitat. In the West, they prefer old growth habitat and in the East they can adapt to the younger forests.

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: 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, however population declines are reported in North Dakota. Habitat encroachment is put as the cause. North Dakota has been one of their breeding grounds, and the woodlands have gradually made way for agriculture and residential developments.

the North Dakota Game and Fish Department says,

The upper portion of the Little Missouri River, the lower Missouri River Valley, and the southern portion of the Red River Valley appears to have supported the highest population.

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.

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.

Sapsuckers


picture of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker breeds in eastern North Dakota. 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.

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