Woodpecker populations across the United States begin to change as one moves across the United States. Wyoming woodpeckers follow that general trend, ending the West Coast typical species list and starting up the typical Rocky Mountain list.
One good example might be the lack of, or very rare sighting for Pileated woodpeckers (Dryocopus) in the state. Otherwise the state’s woodpecker diversity is fairly robust, encompassing eight more or less regularly occuring species in four genera.
Yellowstone National Park, one of the most popular tourist attractions offers visitors good woodpecker diversity during the summer breeding season. Only the Red-headed woodpecker, picture at the top of the page, is not listed as a breeding bird.
- Lewis’s Woodpecker
- Red-headed Woodpecker
- Williamson’s Sapsucker
- Red-naped Sapsucker
- Downy Woodpecker
- Hairy Woodpecker
- American Three-toed Woodpecker
- Black-backed Woodpecker
- Northern Flicker
- Pileated Woodpecker
While they are the most far ranging of the Melanerpes species, Wyoming represents the western edges of their range. With a head covered in red feathers contrasted by a stomach of white feathers, it’s easy to identify. 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.
Lewis’ woodpeckers inhabit the mountains, especially those with larger tracks of old growth forest and Ponderosa Pine.
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.
Flickers (genus Colaptes) rank as one of the most common woodpeckers in the United States.
Wyoming is a meeting point for the two 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.
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.
Male Red-shafted Northern Flickers are distinguished from the female by the red patch or mustache on the cheek. Yellow-shafted males have black mustaches.
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.
North America’s most diverse woodpecker genera, Picoides, records nine separate species. Wyoming has four of them, making it a great place for tourists interested in adding to their life list in the woodpeckers category. Two species the Black-backed and Three-toed woodpeckers stand out.
Black-backed woodpeckers inhabit the Northern Boreal forests, especially those that suffer some type of damage. That’s the case because their diet consists primarily of insects, especially wood-boring beetles that flock to large dead and moribund trees.
Their population levels are intricately lined to those habitat changes. In times of abundant food, populations thrive. Unfortunately in times where forest areas recover, their populations decrease.
They are cavity nesters, similar to other woodpecker species. As the picture highlights, the yellow crown on the male distinguishes them from the typical red crown of more common woodpecker species. Females have a black crown.
Three-toed Woodpeckers are similar to the Black-backed. They are a bit smaller in size and have 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.
Populations in the far north and high mountains may migrate to the valleys, and on rare occurrences even further south, during the winter. Their life in the woods means they are not known as a common backyard feeder bird.
The Downy and Hairy woodpeckers are the other two Wyoming woodpeckers in the genus Picoides. Again, they are very similar looking except for overall size and bill size.
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.
The picture of the male Hairy woodpecker highlights the longer bill. It also serves to remind everyone that Downy and Hairy woodpeckers are one of the most common woodpeckers found at backyard feeders.
The 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.
Williamson’s Sapsuckers inhabit the mountain areas of the West, including the Rocky Mountains, the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada.
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.