Woodpeckers in Michigan

10 Woodpeckers in Michigan (ID Guide, Pictures & Facts)

Are you curious about the woodpeckers in Michigan? Whether you’re a bird enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply interested in learning more about the diverse wildlife in your state, this guide is for you. Join me on a fascinating journey as we explore ten different woodpecker species that can be found in Michigan. From their distinctive plumage to their unique behaviors, there’s so much to discover about these amazing birds.

1. Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

The red-headed woodpecker is a stunning bird with its vibrant plumage and unique behavioral traits. This species can be found in Michigan, adding a splash of color to the state’s natural environment.

If you’re interested in spotting red-headed woodpeckers in Michigan, head to wooded areas with open spaces and dead trees. These birds prefer open forests, woodlots, and parks where they can easily find their preferred habitat. Look out for their conspicuous red head and neck while scanning tree trunks and branches.

When it comes to feeding habits, red-headed woodpeckers have an eclectic diet. They consume insects, fruits, nuts, and seeds, making them adaptable and versatile in their foraging behavior. This adaptability is beneficial for their survival in various environments.

Despite their striking appearance and adaptable nature, red-headed woodpeckers face conservation concerns. Habitat loss, limited nesting sites, and competition for food sources have led to a decline in their population. Therefore, it is crucial to appreciate and protect these beautiful birds to ensure their continued presence in Michigan’s ecosystem.

Let’s take a closer look at the red-headed woodpecker’s characteristics and behavior:

Red-headed Woodpecker Facts:

  • The red-headed woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) in michigan is a medium-sized woodpecker species.
  • Adult male and female red-headed woodpeckers have similar plumage, with a solid red head, neck, and upper breast. The rest of their body is black, except for their white underparts and wing patches.
  • These woodpeckers are known for their distinctive flight pattern, characterized by a series of quickly flapping wings followed by short glides.
  • Red-headed woodpeckers are cavity nesters and use dead trees or snags as nesting sites. They may also use constructed nest boxes when natural cavities are scarce.
  • These birds are highly territorial and defend their nesting sites fiercely, often engaging in aggressive behavior towards intruders.

By understanding the habits and needs of the red-headed woodpecker, we can contribute to their conservation efforts and ensure their continued presence in Michigan’s natural landscape.

2. Red-bellied Woodpecker

red-bellied woodpecker

The red-bellied woodpecker is a common sight in Michigan. With its vibrant plumage and unique behaviors, it’s a beloved species among birdwatchers. Let’s dive into some fascinating facts about this charismatic woodpecker.

Distinctive Features

The red-bellied woodpecker has a medium-sized body, measuring about 9 to 10 inches in length. As the name suggests, its most notable feature is a reddish wash on its belly, which may be faint or bold depending on the individual. This species has a black-and-white striped back, a black tail, and a red crown on its head. The red coloration extends to the nape but is often concealed by its black feathers.

One of the unique features of red-bellied woodpeckers is their zygodactyl feet, with two toes facing forward and two facing backward. This foot structure allows them to easily cling to vertical surfaces, such as tree trunks, while excavating for food or drumming to communicate.

Call and Behavior

The vocalization of the red-bellied woodpecker is a distinctive “churr” or “chuckle” sound. You can hear this call echoing through wooded areas, as they use it for territory defense and communication with other members of their group. Additionally, these woodpeckers are known for their drumming, which is a way to establish their presence and communicate during the breeding season.

Red-bellied woodpeckers are primarily omnivorous, feeding on a variety of insects, fruits, and nuts. They have a particular fondness for acorns, which they often store in crevices or excavate small holes to hide for future consumption. They can also be attracted to backyard bird feeders by offering suet, nuts, or fruit.

Nesting Habits

When it comes to nesting, red-bellied woodpeckers typically excavate cavities in dead or decaying trees. Both males and females participate in forming the nest cavity, which is lined with wood chips. They may choose to reuse the same nest cavity in subsequent years.

The female woodpecker lays 3 to 8 eggs, which she incubates for about 12 days. Once the eggs hatch, both parents take turns feeding the chicks. The young woodpeckers fledge after about 24 to 27 days and continue to rely on their parents for food and guidance as they learn to forage and survive in their environment.

Attracting Red-bellied Woodpeckers to Your Backyard

If you want to attract red-bellied woodpeckers to your backyard, provide a mix of habitat elements that cater to their needs. Planting native trees, such as oak, hickory, and pine, can create a suitable foraging environment. Setting up bird feeders with suet, nuts, and fruit can also help attract these woodpeckers, especially during winter when natural food sources are scarce.

Remember to maintain a clean feeding area and provide fresh water for drinking and bathing. It’s also important to offer a variety of perching options, such as dead branches or snag trees, which these woodpeckers often use as foraging platforms.

By creating a welcoming habitat, you can increase your chances of enjoying the vibrant presence of red-bellied woodpeckers in your own backyard.

Red-bellied Woodpecker Facts
Scientific Name:Melanerpes carolinus
Length:9 to 10 inches
Diet:Insects, fruits, nuts, acorns
Call:“Churr” or “chuckle” sound
Habitat:Deciduous forests, woodlands, suburban areas
Nesting:Excavates cavities in dead or decaying trees
Conservation Status:Least Concern

3. Black-backed Woodpecker

black-backed woodpecker

The black-backed woodpeckers are rare find in Michigan. This distinctive woodpecker species is known for its specialized habitat and plays a crucial role in forest ecosystems. Conservation efforts are underway to protect this unique bird and ensure its survival.

Habitat and Range

The black-backed woodpecker inhabits dense coniferous forests, particularly those affected by disturbances such as wildfires or insect outbreaks. These birds thrive in areas with plenty of dead trees and snags, which they use for nesting and foraging. In Michigan, the black-backed woodpecker is primarily found in the northern parts of the state, where suitable habitat exists.

Role in Forest Ecosystems

The black-backed woodpecker is considered a keystone species in forest ecosystems. Its foraging behavior helps control outbreaks of wood-boring insects, such as the spruce budworm. By excavating nest cavities in dead trees, they create habitat for a variety of other species, including other cavity-nesting birds and small mammals.

Conservation Efforts

Due to its specialized habitat requirements, the black-backed woodpecker is vulnerable to habitat loss and degradation. Conservation organizations and agencies are working to protect and restore the forests that these woodpeckers rely on. Efforts include habitat management, prescribed burning, and promoting sustainable forestry practices that maintain suitable conditions for the black-backed woodpecker.

CharacteristicBlack-backed Woodpecker
Scientific NamePicoides arcticus
Size8.3-9.4 inches (21-24 cm)
PlumageMale: Black upperparts, white underparts
Female: Similar to male, with pale yellow crown patch
NestingExcavates nest cavities in dead trees
Feeding HabitsPrimarily feeds on wood-boring insects and their larvae
Conservation StatusOverall population stable, but localized declines due to habitat loss

4. Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

The downy woodpecker is a delightful and common species of woodpeckers that can be found throughout Michigan. Despite its small size, this bird is packed with unique characteristics that set it apart from other woodpeckers in the region.

Distinctive Characteristics

The downy woodpecker measures about 6-7 inches in length, making it one of the smallest woodpeckers in Michigan. It has a black and white plumage, with a white belly and back, and black wings and tail feathers. One of its most notable features is the black spots that adorn its wings, creating a speckled appearance.

Another characteristic that sets the downy woodpecker apart is its bill. Unlike other woodpeckers, which have longer bills, the downy woodpecker has a short and straight bill that is perfect for excavating small holes in tree bark.

Feeding Behavior

The downy woodpecker’s diet primarily consists of insects, which it finds by tapping and probing trees for hidden treats. To feed, it uses its bill to chisel away bark and expose hidden larvae and insects within. It also enjoys dining on seeds, fruits, and berries, especially during the colder months when insects are scarce.

These woodpeckers in michigan are also known for their acrobatic foraging techniques. They can cling to tree trunks and branches, using their stiff tail feathers and specially adapted feet to maintain balance while searching for food.


Identifying a downy woodpecker can be relatively easy if you know what to look for. Their small size, black and white plumage, and speckled wings are key features to note. Unlike similar-looking species, such as the hairy woodpecker, the downy woodpecker has a shorter bill and lacks the large white patch on its wings.

Table – Downy Woodpecker vs. Hairy Woodpecker

FeatureDowny WoodpeckerHairy Woodpecker
Size6-7 inches7-10 inches
Bill LengthShort and straightLong and slightly curved
Wing MarkingsBlack spotsNo spots
White Wing PatchAbsentPresent (visible in flight)

*Note: Table provides a quick overview of the differences between the downy woodpecker and the hairy woodpecker, another common woodpecker species in Michigan.

5. Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

The hairy woodpecker is a fascinating species that can be found in the state of Michigan. Similar in appearance to the downy woodpecker, but slightly larger, the hairy woodpecker is known for its distinctive features.

Drumming Behavior: One of the unique behaviors of the hairy woodpecker is its drumming. This involves rapidly pecking on trees and other resonant surfaces to communicate with other birds and establish territory.

Differences from Downy Woodpecker: Although the hairy woodpecker shares similarities with the downy woodpecker, there are key differences in their physical features. The hairy woodpecker has a longer bill and a larger overall size compared to the downy woodpecker.

Spotting Locations: To observe the hairy woodpecker in Michigan, head to deciduous forests, woodlands, and suburban areas with mature trees. They are often seen foraging for insects on tree trunks or drumming on resonant surfaces.

FeaturesHairy WoodpeckerDowny Woodpecker
Bill LengthLongerShorter
Overall SizeLargerSmaller
Main HabitsDrumming, foraging for insectsForaging for insects

6. Pileated Woodpeckers in Michigan

Birds with Mohawks

The pileated woodpecker, a magnificent and sizable species, can be found in the woodlands of Michigan. With its distinctive call, habitat preferences, and impressive excavating abilities, the pileated woodpecker is a remarkable bird worth exploring.

When searching for pileated woodpeckers, keep an ear out for their distinct call, which resembles a loud, wild laugh echoing through the forest. This unmistakable vocalization is often used to communicate with other woodpeckers and establish territorial boundaries.

The habitat requirements of the pileated woodpecker are unique. They prefer mature forests with abundant dead trees, where they can excavate large cavities for nesting and foraging. They play a significant role in shaping their environment by creating holes that serve as shelter for other animals.

With their strong beaks and powerful neck muscles, pileated woodpeckers can effortlessly carve into trees in search of insects, their primary source of food. Their excavation skills are so substantial that they can leave behind large rectangular or oval-shaped holes, leaving evidence of their presence throughout the forest.

If you’re fortunate enough to spot a pileated woodpecker during your outdoor adventures in Michigan, take a moment to observe its unique plumage. These woodpeckers have a black body, a striking red crest on their head, and white stripes on their face and neck, making them a visually captivating species.

As you explore the woodlands of Michigan, keep an eye out for the pileated woodpecker and marvel at its distinctive call, explore their preferred habitat, and appreciate their impressive excavating abilities. These magnificent birds add beauty and vitality to Michigan’s forests, contributing to the rich avian biodiversity of the state.

7. Northern Flicker

american three-toed woodpecker

The northern flicker is a unique woodpecker species that can be found in Michigan. Known for its distinctive ground foraging behavior, the northern flicker is also referred to as the “flag bird” due to its conspicuous yellow underwing feathers, which are often visible during flight.

One of the identifying features of the northern flicker is its plumage. These woodpeckers have a brown body with black bars on their back and a black crescent-shaped mark on their chest. The undersides of their wings and tail feathers are lined with vibrant yellow, making them easily recognizable.

Northern flickers feed primarily on ants and beetles, which they extract from the ground with their long, barbed tongue. They are also known to eat berries and fruits, especially during the winter months when insects are scarce. Their ground foraging behavior sets them apart from other woodpecker species, making them a fascinating sight for birdwatchers in Michigan.

8. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

The yellow-bellied sapsucker is an intriguing migratory woodpecker species that graces the forests of Michigan during the breeding season. With their specialized feeding behavior and distinctive markings, these birds add a touch of vibrancy to the region’s woodlands.

One of the most remarkable features of the yellow-bellied sapsucker is its feeding habits. Unlike other woodpeckers that primarily feed on insects or tree bark, these sapsuckers have a unique affinity for sap. They create small, evenly spaced holes in tree trunks or branches, known as sap wells, and return repeatedly to feed on the oozing sap and the insects attracted to it. This behavior not only sustains the sapsucker but also serves as an important food source for other birds and even mammals.

Identifying a yellow-bellied sapsucker is relatively easy due to their distinct markings. Adult males have a bright red crown and throat, a black mask across the eyes, a white belly, and black wings with large white patches. Females have similar markings but with a yellowish tinge on their belly. Younger birds have less intense colors but still display the characteristic pattern that sets them apart from other woodpeckers.

The yellow-bellied sapsucker’s role in creating sap wells extends beyond feeding. The sap wells serve as a valuable resource for hummingbirds, warblers, and various other bird species that rely on the sugary liquid. Additionally, the sapsucker’s activity can indirectly benefit tree health by promoting the growth of fungi, which in turn attract insects that are beneficial for the forest ecosystem.

Fascinating Facts about Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers:

  • The yellow-bellied sapsucker is the only woodpecker species that regularly consumes sap as a primary food source.
  • These migratory birds breed in the northern parts of the United States and Canada, including Michigan, and spend their winters in the southern United States and Central America.
  • Yellow-bellied sapsuckers have a distinctive, high-pitched call that sounds like a short, nasal mewing noise.
  • Their drumming pattern is slower and more irregular compared to other woodpeckers, consisting of a few strong beats followed by a pause.

“The yellow-bellied sapsucker’s unique feeding behavior and vibrant markings make it a captivating species to observe in the forests of Michigan.”

– Jane Peterson, Birdwatching Enthusiast

9. Lewis’s Woodpecker

lewis's woodpecker

The Lewis’s woodpeckers is a rare and unique species that spotted in Michigan. Known for its distinctive flight pattern, habitat preferences, and interesting behavior, this woodpecker is a fascinating bird to observe.

Flight Pattern

The Lewis’s woodpecker has a distinct flight pattern that sets it apart from other woodpecker species. It has a smooth and direct flight, with rapid wing beats interspersed with glides. This unique flying style adds to the allure of spotting a Lewis’s woodpecker in the wild.

Habitat Preferences

The Lewis’s woodpecker prefers open woodlands and forest edges, particularly those with large trees and dead-standing snags. It relies on these snags for nesting and foraging, as they provide an abundant supply of insects.

In Michigan, Lewis’s woodpeckers are most commonly found in the northern parts of the state, where suitable habitat is available. They may also venture into other areas during migration periods, making their appearance a special treat for bird enthusiasts.

Interesting Facts about Behavior

  • The Lewis’s woodpecker has a unique feeding behavior. Unlike other woodpecker species that primarily tap on tree trunks for insects, the Lewis’s woodpecker is known to catch insects in mid-air like a flycatcher.
  • They are also known for their vocalizations, which include a soft chattering and a vibrant churrr call.
  • During courtship displays, the male Lewis’s woodpecker performs a variety of acrobatic flight maneuvers, showcasing its agility and vibrant plumage to attract a mate.

Overall, the Lewis’s woodpecker is a captivating species to observe in its natural habitat. Its distinctive flight pattern, habitat preferences, and intriguing behaviors make it a sought-after sighting for birdwatchers in Michigan.

SizeApproximately 11-12 inches in length
ColorationAdults have a dark greenish-black body, with a pinkish-red belly and a gray collar. They also have a unique salmon-colored face with black around the eye.
HabitatOpen woodlands, forest edges, and areas with large trees and dead standing snags
RangeOccasional visitor to Michigan, primarily in the northern parts of the state
Feeding BehaviorCatches insects in mid-air and also feeds on fruits and berries
VocalizationSoft chattering and a vibrant churrr call

10. American Three-toed Woodpecker

american three-toed woodpecker

The American three-toed woodpecker is a fascinating specialist species that can be found in certain areas of Michigan. With its unique foraging techniques and specific habitat requirements, this woodpecker stands out among its relatives. However, it also faces challenges due to forest management practices in the region.

One distinguishing feature of the American three-toed woodpecker is its ability to forage in a way that differs from other woodpeckers. While most woodpeckers use their beaks to peck at trees and feed on insects or sap, the American three-toed woodpecker has a more specialized feeding strategy. Instead of pecking randomly, it systematically removes bark from a tree trunk in search of wood-boring beetle larvae. This behavior allows them to access their preferred food source more efficiently.

To cater to the specific needs of the American three-toed woodpecker, suitable habitat is crucial. They prefer coniferous forests with ample dead trees or snags. These snags provide the ideal environment for their foraging behavior and create nesting opportunities. The presence of dead trees is essential as they serve as a source of insects and allow this woodpecker species to thrive.

However, the American three-toed woodpecker faces challenges, particularly when it comes to habitat availability and quality. Forest management practices, such as the removal of dead trees or the reduction of snags, can significantly impact their populations. As these practices aim to mitigate the risk of forest fires or other hazards, the woodpecker’s specialized needs may not be prioritized.

Conservation efforts play a vital role in protecting the American three-toed woodpecker and ensuring its survival. By promoting sustainable forest management practices that maintain suitable habitat conditions, we can help preserve this unique species. Additionally, raising awareness about the importance of snags and dead trees in forest ecosystems can contribute to their long-term conservation.

American Three-toed WoodpeckerKey Facts
Scientific NamePicoides dorsalis
Size9-10 inches (23-25 cm) in length
HabitatConiferous forests with dead trees or snags
Feeding BehaviorSpecialized foraging by removing bark to access wood-boring beetle larvae
Conservation StatusSpecies of Least Concern

Final Thoughts

Overall, Michigan offers a rich habitat for a variety of woodpecker species. From the striking red-headed woodpecker to the elusive Lewis’s woodpecker, these birds add vibrancy to the state’s forests and backyards.

By learning about the behavior and habitat requirements of woodpeckers in Michigan, we can better appreciate and protect these fascinating creatures. Understanding their needs can help us create an environment that supports their populations and sustains their important ecological roles.

Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or just starting out, exploring the diverse woodpecker species in Michigan can bring joy and excitement to your backyard adventures. So grab your binoculars, head outdoors, and embrace the beauty of woodpeckers in Michigan!

Mya Bambrick

I am a lifelong bird lover and nature enthusiast. I admire birds for their beauty, diversity, and intelligence. Birding is more than a hobby for me; it is a way of life. Therefore, I created this website to provide better and quality information about bird species. You know there are many bird species in the world right now. I started a path to introduce you to birds one by one.

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