Woodpeckers are one of the most incredible birds on earth. Virginia has its share of these stunning birds that will amaze you with their ability to perform seemingly impossible tasks.
If you live in the Old Dominion, you’re likely familiar with the downy woodpeckers in your hood or nearby woods. However, here are the eight striking woodpeckers in Virginia!
- 1 1. Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)
- 2 2. Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
- 3 3. Lewis’s Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis)
- 4 4. Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)
- 5 5. Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
- 6 6. Red-Cockaded Woodpecker (Dryobates Borealis)
- 7 7. Red-Bellied Woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus)
- 8 8. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus varius)
- 9 FAQs
1. Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)
Red-headed woodpeckers reside across most of North America and are known for their red heads, black wings, and white underbellies.
Both sexes are 8.2 to 9.8 inches long, weighing 2.5 ounces, with a wingspan of 14 to 17 inches.
Red-headed woodpeckers are omnivores and feed on various insects, fruits, seeds, nuts, and berries. They also take advantage of bird feeders left out by humans.
You can find them in various habitats, including farmlands, forests, parks, and backyards with plenty of trees.
- They forage for food on trees or the ground and often cache it in tree holes or crevices to store for later use.
- They communicate by drumming on tree trunks or through a call that sounds like a high-pitched squeak.
- Instead of building a nest from twigs and branches like other woodpeckers, redheads use abandoned nests built by other birds, such as bluebirds or swallows.
- They lay their eggs later than other woodpeckers (usually around May) to avoid competition with other birds for nesting sites.
2. Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
The Hairy Woodpeckers look similar to the Downy Woodpeckers and are both common peckers in Virginia.
They’re about the size of a robin, 9.8 inches long, weighing 1.5 to 3.5 ounces, with a wingspan of 14 inches.
This bird has a red crest on its head, black feathers with white markings on its back/wings, and white under its neck and belly.
They feed on insects and larvae found in dead trees, rotten logs, and decaying stumps. They also eat berries, ants, beetles, spiders, wasps, and other small insects that live on trees.
It lives in various habitats, including forests, woodlands, backyards, and parks with trees and other sources such as ponds, streams, or lakes.
- The red crest on top of its head can raise to make the bird look more prominent than usual when it feels threatened.
- The Hairy Woodpecker is a very territorial and aggressive bird, meaning it’ll attack and peck at any moving object, including humans that come near its territory or nest.
- This bird has very few to no predators because of its aggressive nature and living close to water sources.
- The female lays 3 to 6 eggs simultaneously and incubates them for 11 to 13 days. Both parents will feed and defend their chicks until they fledge.
3. Lewis’s Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis)
Lewis’s woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker with blackish-red upper parts and light red underparts.
They have a length of 10 to 11 inches, a weight of 4.2 ounces, and a wingspan of 19.3 to 20.5 inches.
This bird forages for small insects, worms, centipedes, beetles, roaches, larvae, and other invertebrates on tree trunks.
They prefer open areas with scattered trees or shrubs. You can also find them nesting in various man-made structures, including telephone poles and fence posts.
- This species is a cavity nester, meaning it pecks wood to make its nest holes rather than using natural ones.
- Lewis’s woodpecker is named after Meriwether Lewis, co-leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, who discovered the bird first in the 1800s.
- This woodpecker species flies like a crow and forages like a flycatcher.
- They have a habit of drumming on trees with their bill to attract mates and proclaim territory. The drumming is so loud that you can mistake it for gunfire.
4. Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)
The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the largest native woodpeckers and a famous bird with a mohawk.
Their distinctive red crest and red mohawk on its head make them easily recognizable.
They’re about 15 to 19.4 long, weighing 8.8 to 12.4 ounces, and have a wingspan of 26 to 30 inches.
They feed on insects, larvae, carrion, earthworms, spiders, beetles, wasps, and other invertebrates.
They also prey on small mammals and snakes, as well as feed on beechnuts, acorns, corn kernels, chestnuts, pecans, walnuts, and hickory nuts.
You can find them in old forest stands of hardwoods, pine plantations, suburban areas, and mature forests, particularly those with dead or dying trees and large nest cavities.
- They excavate their nest holes but will also use abandoned crow, squirrel, or hawk nests and reuse the roost for years if it’s undisturbed.
- They’re boisterous birds that make a loud drumming sound when pecking wood for insects and larvae.
- Pileated Woodpeckers are easily attracted to backyards.
- They also use drumming as a territorial display to attract breeding mates, ward off rivals, and communicate with other species members.
- Males are much larger than females, but both sexes have red mohawks. However, the male’s head is redder than a female’s.
5. Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
This beautiful yellow-rumped woodpecker is known for its bronze feathers, white throat, black-and-white striped back, and brown underparts with black dots.
They have a length of 11.02 to 12.2 inches, a weight of 4.2 ounces, and a wingspan of 19.7 to 21.7 inches.
Flickers are primarily insectivores, feeding on ants, beetles, cockroaches, worms, termites, bugs, and other small insects.
Although they prefer dry deciduous woods, they also visit bird feeders. You can often spot them perched on power lines, fences, and utility poles.
You can find flickers in large flocks with other woodpeckers along forest edges and clearings during migration.
- Both sexes drum on wood, but males do so more frequently than females, especially during mating season.
- Flickers are highly territorial, and they’re known to fight over territory with other woodpeckers and different bird species.
- Although they prefer drumming on poles, dead trees, or tree trunks, they also do it on houses during migration.
- If you want to attract a Northern Flicker to your yard, try putting up a bird feeder with sunflower seeds or suet.
6. Red-Cockaded Woodpecker (Dryobates Borealis)
The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is small and colorful, federally listed as an endangered species since the 1990s.
They’re 8.3 to 8.7 inches long with a weight of 1.5 to 1.9 ounces and a wingspan of 13.4 to 15.7 inches.
The bird feeds mainly on insects living under bark, including beetles, termites, ants, wasps, millipedes, etc. They also eat wild cherry, dogwood berries, and hawthorn fruit.
They prefer extensive, mature, longleaf pine forests, which have historically been managed for logging and fire. You can find them in areas with scattered oaks or other hardwoods.
- They nest high up in living pine trees with dead sections to enhance protection from predators.
- Males drum on tree trunks with their beaks during courtship displays to attract females, establish territories, and frighten off intruders.
- Females do most of the incubation, while males defend the territory around the nest tree.
- These woodpeckers are monogamous and mate for life.
7. Red-Bellied Woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus)
The Red-bellied Woodpecker is one of the most common woodpeckers in Virginia, especially during winter.
Sometimes you can confuse them with Red-headed Woodpeckers because they all have a red cap, but Red-bellies are smaller.
They’re about 9.4 inches long, weighing 2 to 3.2 ounces, with a wingspan of 13 to 16.5 inches.
You can spot them year-round in woodlands, groves, and forests near streams. You can also find them near backyard feeders and other suburban areas.
In their natural habitats, these birds will eat ants, beetles, spiders, centipedes, wasps, and other insects and berries they find on trees and bushes.
- They’re easily attracted to nest boxes with a platform or entrance hole placed high enough to avoid predators, preferably on private property.
- Their flight is quite fast, enabling them to escape predators easily by flying straight up into tall trees. They’ll hop along quickly if caught on the ground instead of trying to fly.
- To reduce competition for food, these woodpeckers often use various habitats, even parks and apartments, where people provide birdfeeders.
- Males and females help with nest building and caring for chicks; Females build the nest and incubate eggs while males provide food to her.
8. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus varius)
A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a common woodpecker in Virginia that often frequents dead trees.
It has a length of 7.1 to 8.7 inches, a weight of 1.5 to 1.9 ounces, and a wingspan of 13.4 to 15.8 inches.
They have a straight, strong bill that helps them feed on little tree cambium and sap from live or dead trees, making them one of the few woodpecker species that feed on tree sap.
This woodpecker also eats small insects like wasps, ants, beetles, spiders, caterpillars, flies, grasshoppers, larvae, and other invertebrates.
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are usually found in moist forests and young deciduous forests with plenty of trees.
- When looking for insects, they tap their beaks against a single spot until an insect comes out, then it quickly pecks down and grabs it with its bill before flying off.
- They nest in a huge cavity scooped in a live deciduous tree, especially the one with rotten heartwood like aspen, birch, and poplar, 60 feet above the ground.
- The female stays in the nest to incubate her eggs for 12 days while the male mate provides her food until the chicks are ready to fly.
- Males defend their territory aggressively against other birds and intruders close to their domain.
What’s the biggest woodpecker in Virginia?
The largest woodpecker in Virginia is the pileated woodpecker, which can grow up to 19.4 inches long.
What is the most common woodpecker in Virginia?
The downy woodpecker is the most common pecker, living year-round in most of Virginia’s regions. They’re small birds with black backs, white bellies, and red caps.
What attracts woodpeckers to your home?
Woodpeckers are attracted to a home for several reasons, but food is the main reason, especially on birdfeeders or your backyard trees.
What kind of bird feeder is best for woodpeckers?
The best bird feeder for woodpeckers is a platform-style or hopper feeder because they’re a little bigger than the average songbird.