Woodpeckers in Florida: A Comprehensive Guide - Chipper Birds (2023)

Woodpeckers are one of the most fascinating and unique creatures in the world. With their distinctive appearance and interesting behavior, woodpeckers are a favorite of bird enthusiasts everywhere. In Florida, there is no shortage of woodpecker species to see, making it a great destination for anyone interested in these birds.

This guide will provide an overview of the different woodpecker species found in Florida, as well as some tips on how to spot them. So whether you’re a beginner or an experienced birder, read on to learn more about these amazing birds!

10 Woodpeckers in Florida

1. Northern Flicker Woodpecker

Woodpeckers in Florida: A Comprehensive Guide - Chipper Birds (1)

The Northern Flicker Woodpecker is the most commonly seen woodpecker in Florida. They are about 11 to 14 inches long, with a wingspan of up to 21 inches, and weigh between 2.2 and 3 ounces.

The colors of the male Northern Flicker range from black, gray, and white to brownish red on the back and wings, while the female’s coloring is more subdued. They have a black neck, dull gray crown, and a white rump patch on their back. The Northern Flicker also has a bright yellow breast with spots or streaks of red along its sides.

These birds prefer open habitats such as pastures, fields, and farms. They feed primarily on ants, which they obtain from the ground. They also eat seeds, fruits, and berries when available. Northern Flickers are known to migrate south during the winter months in order to find a more suitable climate for breeding.

2. Red-headed Woodpecker

The Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) is one of the most eye-catching woodpeckers in Florida. It’s easily identifiable by its bright red head and white wing patches. The back and tail are black, with a white line on the wings.

The Red-headed Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker found in open, dry woods. The Red-headed Woodpecker enjoys visiting backyard bird feeders and will eat almost anything offered, including suet, nuts, fruits and insects. They are also known to feed on tree sap and carpenter ants.

The Red-headed Woodpecker nests in cavities, which it excavates in dead trees or utility poles. They are monogamous and the male typically does most of the construction for their nest. The chicks fledge about a month after hatching and will return to their nesting site for up to three weeks until they become independent.

The Red-headed Woodpecker can be found in all parts of Florida including the Everglades, as well as in wooded areas throughout the state. They are particularly abundant along the Gulf Coast and thrive on urban landscape areas.

3. Ivory-billed Woodpecker

Woodpeckers in Florida: A Comprehensive Guide - Chipper Birds (2)

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is a large woodpecker native to the old-growth forests of the southeastern United States. It was once believed to have gone extinct in the early 20th century, but recent reports of sightings suggest it may still exist.

This species is approximately 20–24 inches (51–61 cm) long with a wingspan of about 28–30 inches (71–76 cm). The male is black on the back, with white stripes and a bright red crest. The female also has white stripes and a red crest but is grayish-black in coloration.

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One of the most unique features of this species is its long beak, which is up to 4 inches (10 cm) in length and is used to excavate deep cavities into dead trees to make nests. This species can also produce loud drumming noises with their beaks, which can be heard hundreds of feet away.

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker was once abundant throughout the southeastern United States, but its population has been in decline since the early 20th century due to habitat destruction and other human-induced factors.

This species is now believed to be critically endangered and possibly extinct, though there have been a few recent reports of sightings in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina.

If this species does still exist, it is likely that only a few individuals remain in the wild. The best chance to conserve this species is to maintain and restore its remaining habitat, and protect any areas where it may still occur from further destruction or disturbance.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the Ivory-billed Woodpecker as a federally endangered species since 1967, providing some legal protections for the species and its habitat.

4. Red-bellied Woodpecker

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is one of the most common and widespread species of woodpecker in Florida. This large, black and white bird has a bright red cap on its head, as well as a red wash on its belly.

It can often be found perched at the top of dead or dying trees, where it feeds on carpenter ants and other insects. These birds are cavity nesters, meaning they make their nests in cavities in trees or dead snags rather than building a nest from scratch.

These woodpeckers can often be seen hopping around the branches of trees and shrubs, searching for food. They also eat fruits and berries as well as acorns and other nuts. Red-bellied Woodpeckers are mostly permanent residents, though some may migrate to the southeastern states during winter months.

5. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

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The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is another common woodpecker species in Florida. It’s easily identifiable by its yellowish underbelly, sallow back and black-and-white speckled wings. It is a migratory woodpecker and it moves south during the winter months in search of food.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker feeds on insects and sap taken from trees. They drill holes into trees to access the sap which they then lap up with their specialized tongues. They also eat suet and other birdseed mixes when available.

Sapsuckers have a unique courtship display which involves using their beaks to drum on tree trunks, logs or even house sidings! This can create quite a racket so if you hear loud drumming coming from your neighborhood, chances are it’s a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker looking for a mate.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker prefers wooded or semi-open areas and is usually found near watersides or in wetland forests. These woodpeckers will often form communal roosting sites with other sapsucker species, where they spend the night.

As far as nests go, these woodpeckers will usually excavate cavities in dead trees or stumps and line them with wood chips and lichens to make them more comfortable. The nesting season generally lasts from March through June.

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The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a species of Least Concern according to the IUCN Red List, meaning it is not considered a threatened or endangered species. This woodpecker species is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Efforts are ongoing to conserve and protect its habitats in Florida to ensure its continued survival.

6. Pileated Woodpeckers

The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the most impressive species in Florida. This large, striking bird is quite common in many parts of the state and can be found from south Florida all the way up to the Panhandle.

The Pileated Woodpecker measures between 16-19 inches in length, with a long chisel-like bill and a large, strong body. They have a black back and wings with white stripes on the side of their body. The male has a red crest on its head, while the female’s crest is black.

These beautiful birds are primarily found in mature forests but can also be seen in parks and suburban areas. These woodpeckers feed on wood-boring insects and their larvae, as well as fruits, nuts, and seeds.

They use their long bills to dig out large holes in trees for nesting, roosting, and feeding. Pileated Woodpeckers are monogamous and pairs will often excavate the same nest cavity each year.

7. Red-cockaded Woodpecker

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Another species of woodpecker that can be found in Florida is the red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW). RCWs are small birds, about 7.5–9 inches long, with a black and white striped back and male RCWs have a red patch on their head.

They are among the few remaining North American species of woodpecker that excavate their nesting and roosting cavities in live, mature pine trees. This species has a very specialized habitat needs, living mainly in old growth “longleaf” pine forests with an open understory of grasses and shrubs and frequent fires to maintain the structure of the forest.

In Florida, the range of the RCW is limited to only a few large tracts of longleaf pine forest. These include Eglin Air Force Base in Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties, Apalachicola National Forest in Liberty and Wakulla counties, St.

Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Wakulla County, Tate’s Hell State Forest in Franklin County, and Big Bend Wildlife Management Area in Franklin and Wakulla counties.

The population of the RCW has been declining for several decades due to destruction of their habitat but there is hope for this species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has a recovery plan in place which aims to increase the red-cockaded woodpecker population in Florida and other states across its range.

The plan includes efforts to restore and protect longleaf pine forests, control of feral pigs which can damage RCW nests, reintroduction of the species into suitable habitat areas, and installation of artificial nest cavities in some areas. With these initiatives, there is hope that the RCW’s population will increase in the future.

8. Hairy Woodpecker

The Hairy Woodpecker is one of the most common woodpeckers in Florida and can easily be identified by its distinct black and white markings. This species prefers mature forests with large trees, making it a frequent visitor to state parks and nature preserves. These birds feed primarily on insects but also eat fruit, nuts, and sap from trees.

The Hairy Woodpecker is quite territorial and will defend its nesting grounds against other birds. It can often be seen pecking aggressively at trees or chasing off competitors in order to keep its territory safe.

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These woodpeckers are monogamous, which means that they mate with only one partner for life. They also typically nest in a single cavity in the trunk of a tree.

When it comes to woodpecker conservation efforts, the Hairy Woodpecker is considered to be relatively common and stable across its range. A survey conducted by researchers at the University of Florida found that nesting populations are doing well in areas with high amounts of mature hardwoods.

9. Gold-fronted Woodpecker

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The Gold-fronted Woodpecker (Melanerpes aurifrons) is a medium sized woodpecker that inhabits the southeastern United States, including Florida. The adult male has a black eye line, black cap and nape, reddish-brown back and wings with white spots, yellow on the face below the eye, and a red crown.

The female has similar, but duller colors. Both sexes have white throats and bellies with some buff coloration along the sides.

The Gold-fronted Woodpecker is found in open woodlands, savannahs, residential areas and parklands where small trees occur such as palmettos or live oaks.

They feed on insects, mostly ants and beetles, and also small invertebrates such as centipedes, spiders, caterpillars and snails. Fruits and berries are sometimes consumed in the winter months when other food sources are scarce.

The Gold-fronted Woodpecker is a cavity nester and will excavate a hole in a dead or dying tree for nesting. Adults and juveniles will also use existing cavities for roosting, as well as man-made structures such as bird houses.

The nest is constructed from wood chips and lined with softer material such as mosses or feathers. The female lays three to six eggs which she incubates for about two weeks. The young hatchlings are fed by both parents and fledge about three weeks after hatching.

The Gold-fronted Woodpecker is considered to be of least concern by the IUCN due to its wide distribution, stable population numbers and adaptability to various habitat types. While not considered endangered or threatened in Florida, the Gold-fronted Woodpecker is a species of Special Concern due to its declining numbers across the southeastern United States.

Within Florida, the Gold-fronted Woodpecker can be found throughout the state except for in South Florida where it is only present during migration and winter months. It is usually seen singly or in pairs and often joins mixed-species flocks of other woodland birds.

10. Downy Woodpecker

The Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) is a small and adorable woodpecker species that can be found living in the forests of Florida. They are the smallest member of their family, at only 6-7 inches long and weighing around 1 ounce. The Downy Woodpecker has a mostly black body, with white stripes on their back and a small white patch on their head.

They have a red spot at the back of their head, which distinguishes them from other woodpeckers. The Downy Woodpecker mainly eats insects, such as beetles and caterpillars, but will also eat fruit, nuts, tree sap, and occasionally eggs and nestlings of other birds.

The Downy Woodpecker can be found in a variety of different habitats, including both deciduous and coniferous forests. They prefer to make their nests in dead or dying trees, but will also use abandoned woodpecker holes from previous years. In the winter months, Downy Woodpeckers will migrate to Southern Florida, where they can find more insect prey.

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The Downy Woodpecker is an important species of woodpecker in Florida because it helps keep the forests healthy by eating insects and other pests that would otherwise destroy trees and other plants.

They are also important for providing food for larger predator birds, such as hawks and owls. The Downy Woodpecker is an important part of the local ecosystem and should be protected from harm by humans.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has listed the Downy Woodpecker as a species of concern due to its declining population. Although it is currently not considered threatened or endangered, conservation efforts are still necessary to ensure the survival of this species.

If you see a Downy Woodpecker in Florida, remember to give it plenty of space and do not disturb its habitat or nesting sites. By respecting these amazing birds, we can help keep their populations stable and healthy in Florida for years to come.

The largest and smallest Florida woodpecker.

Woodpeckers in Florida: A Comprehensive Guide - Chipper Birds (6)

The largest woodpecker in Florida is the Pileated Woodpecker. It measures between 17-19 inches and has a wingspan of 26-30 inches. This species has several distinctive features, including bright red crowns, strong black and white stripes on their backs, and bright white bellies with black spots.

Their wings are black and have white patches on the shoulders. Pileated Woodpeckers can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, meadows, wetlands, and suburban areas. They are most active during the day but they do occasionally come out to feed at night.

The smallest woodpecker species in Florida is the Downy Woodpecker. It measures between 6-7 inches and has a wingspan of 9-11 inches. This species is identified by its black and white striped back, bright red patch on the back of the head, small beak, and white belly with black spots. They are most active during the day but they do occasionally come out to feed at night. Downy Woodpeckers can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, meadows, wetlands, and suburban areas. They prefer to feed on insects but also eat fruits and nuts.

What is the most common and rarest woodpecker in Florida?

The most commonly spotted woodpecker in Florida is the Red-bellied Woodpecker. This species lives in all types of forests, from swamps to dry hammocks. It prefers open woodlands and pine savannas but can also be found in suburban areas and towns.

They are especially fond of live oaks and acorns, which form a large part of their diet. Red-bellied woodpeckers are year-round residents and can be seen drumming, flitting through the trees, or clinging to trunks and branches in search of food.

The rarest woodpecker that is found in Florida is the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. This species is mostly found in Cuba and the southeastern United States. It prefers mature cypress or tupelo swamps, where it feeds primarily on beetles and larvae hidden under dead wood.

Sightings of this bird are extremely rare due to its low population numbers, but there have been sporadic reports of individuals in Florida since the 1930s.

Final thoughts

Woodpeckers are a valuable part of the Florida ecosystem and play an important role as both a species that disperses seeds and pollinates plants, as well as being an indicator of habitat health. They require specific types of habitats to survive, so it is important to have conservation strategies in place to protect suitable habitats for these unique birds.

It is also important to remember that woodpeckers are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and should be left undisturbed. By learning about woodpecker species in Florida, we can better understand how our actions impact wildlife and take steps to ensure their survival for generations to come. Woodpeckers are an important part of the state’s biodiversity and we should do our best to protect them.

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