11 Types of Woodpeckers in Washington

Woodpeckers in Washington
Photo by Syed Ali

There are 11 types of woodpeckers in Washington. Each type prefers to eat different food and dwell in different environments, so no two kinds of woodpeckers are alike.

This article thoroughly explores each type of woodpecker found in Washington and explains how you can spot them in the wild.

1. Downy Woodpecker

The Downy Woodpecker are the smallest woodpeckers in Washington. It has a black and white back, a white front, and a small black head with a white stripe running down the middle. These birds are often seen pecking at tree trunks or flying from branch to branch in search of food. 

The Downy Woodpecker is found in forests across North America and is a common sight in backyard bird feeders. The species name pubescens means downy, referring to the soft plumage that covers its body.

They have short legs and wings but long tongues for extracting insects from tree cracks. They are highly social birds, living in large groups year-round.

Downy Woodpeckers nest in natural cavities like holes drilled by other animals, old squirrel nests, and abandoned crows’ nests.

Breeding pairs occupy territories year-round, where they live together and share nesting duties, taking turns incubating eggs during the breeding season.

2. Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers in Washington, measuring around 9 to 10 inches long. They have a black and white striped back, with a white belly and breast. Males have a red patch on the back of their heads, while females do not. 

These woodpeckers are found in forests throughout the state. They like to forage for food on trees, such as sap wells or beetle larvae. Hairy Woodpeckers are very territorial and will chase other birds away from their territory. 

They use their substantial bills to excavate bark and look for food. If you see one near your house, it’s usually because they’re after insect larva living in the crevices of your home’s siding.

You can discourage them by sealing up those cracks where they’re gaining access to your home. Make sure to cover them entirely so that no light shines through.

Other methods include hanging bird feeders outside your window that face outwards or putting up window screens so that you don’t allow them entry into your home if they try to peck at the glass.

Sometimes these woodpeckers drum on tree trunks to show off their dominance and scare other males away from the area.

3. Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker are the largest woodpeckers in Washington. It has a red crescent on its breast and a brown back with black bars. The adult male has a yellow face, while the female has a brown face. 

Both sexes have a black bib; these birds are adaptable and can be found in forests and open habitats such as parks and golf courses.

They nest in cavities excavated from trees or abandoned buildings. They forage for food on the ground or fly out from an elevated perch to catch insects. 

They will also eat seeds and nuts when they are available. They do not migrate, but their numbers vary greatly depending on the weather.

When you see these woodpeckers up close, watch them closely, and you might see them turn their head 180 degrees! 

That’s because they have a muscle that allows them to move their neck 180 degrees. While this makes it easier for them to search for bugs, hunting can be difficult if prey ducks into tight spaces.

4. Pileated Woodpecker

One of the most striking woodpeckers in North America is the Pileated Woodpecker. These birds are black with white stripes running down their necks and wings. Males have a red patch on their heads, while females do not. 

Pileated Woodpeckers are one of the largest woodpeckers in Washington and North America, measuring up to 19 inches in length and weighing up to 1 pound.

They can be found throughout most of the United States, living in deciduous forests and near streams. Their diet consists mainly of ants, termites, bees, beetles, wasps, and caterpillars. 

They will also eat spiders! With so many insects around, it’s no wonder this bird has few predators. Despite their large size, these woodpeckers seem gentle enough for humans to handle! The pileated woodpecker can live between 10-25 years in the wild.

5. American Three-Toed Woodpecker

American three-toed woodpeckers are the most common type of woodpeckers in Washington. These birds are black and white with a red cap on their head. They are about the size of a robin and can be found in forests throughout the state. 

American three-toed woodpeckers eat insects, fruits, and nuts; they use their long beaks to drill holes in trees to find food. These birds mate for life and usually have two or three chicks.

When they breed, the male will put some food near the female and sing to her; if she likes him, she’ll come down from her tree branch and eat from his hand. 

Once they’ve chosen each other as mates, they’ll build a nest together out of bark strips from living trees damaged by storms or drought.

When it’s time for mating season, females put up little leks, and males show off for them by drumming loudly on dead branches with their beaks. 

After mating, females lay one egg every day for about six days. Eggs hatch after around 12 days, and both parents take care of the young birds until they’re old enough to fly away with their own families.

6. Black-BackedWoodpecker

There are 11 types of woodpeckers in Washington, and the black-backed woodpecker is one of them. This type of woodpecker is all black with a white back and is the largest of the woodpeckers in Washington.

The black-backed woodpecker is found in western Washington forests and feeds on insects, larvae, and grubs. 

This type of woodpecker mates for life, nesting in holes excavated in trees. The black-backed woodpecker is a protected species in Washington, and it is illegal to kill them; they are hunted by larger birds such as hawks, owls, and eagles.

A male black-backed woodpecker will attract other males away from his territory by mimicking their call; however, he will fly away if the other male pursues him. 

Black-backed woodpeckers usually only have one brood per year; however, sometimes, they have two or three broods per year when conditions are favorable. Black-backed woodpeckers may be confused with hairy woodpeckers due to their similar size and coloring. 

However, there are several differences between these two types of woodpeckers, including habitat preference, breeding behavior, and plumage patterns.

7. White-Headed Woodpecker

White-headed woodpeckers are one of the most common types of woodpeckers in Washington. They have a white head, black body, and white wings. They are about the size of a robin and can be found in forests, parks, and backyards. 

White-headed woodpeckers eat insects, berries, and nuts. They are known for their loud call, which sounds like a pik-a-pik or Kuk- Kuk. They will often drill holes into trees to get at ants, termites, and other insects they enjoy eating. 

The male and female will share nesting duties, with both birds taking turns incubating eggs while the other goes out to find food.

When it comes time to feed the babies, the parents use their bill as a mini egg slicer, breaking apart pieces of insect flesh and regurgitating it for their young. Another name for white-headed woodpeckers is Chimney Swifts. 

They earned that name because they love roosting inside hollowed-out trees and even chimneys to keep warm during winter.

These woodpeckers are known to have large, loud families. Males often share nesting duties with several females and will all work together to build nests in trees or a human-made structure such as a chimney.

8. Red-Breasted Sapsucker

The red-breasted sapsucker is a small woodpecker found in North America. It is a member of the genus Sphyrapicus and the family Picidae. The red-breasted sapsucker is sexually dimorphic, with the male having a red breast and the female having a yellow breast. 

Both sexes have a black back and wings and a white belly. The red-breasted sapsucker feeds on sap from trees and insects, and berries. It nests in tree cavities and sometimes uses artificial nest boxes. 

Red-breasted sapsuckers have several calls, one being a seet call indicating food has been found. They may also produce an alarm call if they are threatened by predators or hear other alarm calls nearby.

Red-breasted sapsuckers can be confused with northern flickers because they both use their bills to drill into the wood in search of food; however, northern flickers look up more often than red-breasted sapsuckers when drilling into wood. 

9. Williamson’s Sapsucker

Woodpeckers are birds known for their sharp beak and ability to drill tree holes. Williamson’s sapsucker is a woodpecker species found in the state of Washington. This bird is black and white with a red breast and has a wingspan of about 16 inches. 

Williamson’s sapsucker drills holes in trees to feed on the sap that oozes out. These woodpeckers In Washington also eat insects, berries, and fruits.

Williamson’s sapsucker is not considered endangered, but its population has declined recently due to habitat loss. 

Habitat loss occurs when there are fewer places for these birds to live. There are different ways that humans can help these birds survive by planting more trees or buying products made from recycled paper instead of new paper products. 

Humans can also plant gardens with plants like elderberry, which attracts insects and is food for the woodpeckers. Humans must ensure they protect natural habitats because they provide food and shelter for all animals, including Williamson’s sapsucker.

10. Lewis’s Woodpecker

Although it is the second-largest woodpecker in North America, Lewis’s woodpecker is rarely seen. The adult male has a red head, black back, and white belly. The adult female has a brown head and back with a whitish belly. 

Both sexes have a small crest on their head, and these woodpeckers are found in dry open forests in the western United States.

They eat insects, fruits, nuts, and lewis’s woodpecker nests in holes excavated in trees. It will also use natural cavities or abandoned woodpecker holes. 

The eggs of this species are white to light pink and heavily spotted with dark reddish brown marks. These birds tend to lay three to four eggs per clutch. The incubation period for these eggs lasts about 13 days. 

Young chicks fledge from the nest after about 30 days and can fly at six weeks old. Like most other woodpeckers, they feed on ants and beetle larvae that live under tree bark. 

When hunting for food, they may drill up to 20 holes in one tree before moving on to another. As ground predators, they provide an essential service by controlling insect populations.

11. Red-Naped Sapsucker

The red-naped sapsucker is one of the woodpeckers in Washington. It’s a slight to medium-sized woodpecker with a black back, white belly, and a red cap on its head. The red-naped sapsucker drills holes in trees to get at the sap inside. 

It also eats insects, berries, and nuts. You can find red-naped sapsuckers in forests, woodlands, and urban areas. They’re exciting birds to watch and play an essential role in the ecosystem by helping control insect populations. 

If you have any saguaro cacti around your house, it might be worth keeping an eye out for these birds! A 2013 study found that saguaro cacti attract several types of woodpeckers, including red-naped sapsuckers. 

The birds peck away at the sweet spines to eat the fleshy tissue underneath, pollinating the flowers as they go along! Red-naped sapsuckers are closely related to other North American woodpeckers like the northern flicker and downy woodpecker.


There are eleven types of woodpeckers in Washington. Each type has its unique physical characteristics, habits, and range. Some woodpeckers are more common in some regions of the state than others. 

While all woodpeckers are interesting creatures, some are more fascinating than others. Thanks for taking the time to learn about the different types of woodpeckers in Washington. Hopefully, you have learned something new. Happy birding!

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