10 Different Types of Woodpeckers in Michigan

Woodpeckers in Michigan
Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen

Although you might have seen up to a dozen species of woodpeckers in Michigan, just 8 live there full time. You might be lucky to see the other two if you keep a close eye out. 

Michigan has a dual peninsular setup and frontage on multiple Great Lakes. This provides a unique atmosphere when compared to other states. Moreover, this enables a wide range of woodpeckers to find ideal habitats and feeding opportunities.

Michigan people love looking for woodpeckers throughout the winter months, as many other species seek refuge or migrate during the harsh Michigan winters. On the other hand, many woodpeckers do not migrate during this time. 

In the spring, you can hear the typical drumming sound these birds produce to attract mates. Michigan is the perfect home for woodpeckers due to its dietary options and unique habitat. Let’s take a look at some of the woodpeckers we can find there.

1. American Three-toed Woodpecker

The American Three-toed Woodpecker has a broad white stripe down its back, medium-length black wings with white spots, and a medium-length black tail with a white underside.

This bird has a medium-length black bill, and a yellow patch on the forehead indicates that it is a male.

These birds range in size from 8.3 to 9.1 inches in length and 14.6 to 15.3 inches wide. These Woodpeckers enjoy spending time in woodland regions with dead or burned trees. They are also particularly fond of coniferous woodlands.

In addition, these birds do visit Michigan proper and have a stronger tolerance for cold than most woodpeckers. American Three-toed Woodpeckers aren’t common, but they are out there waiting for a lucky birder to find them.

Their meal of spruce beetle larva is beneficial to the environment, as these beetles may cause significant harm if left unchecked.

These birds are good at sitting totally motionless, so you might have even walked past one unnoticed. Another unusual feature is that these woodpeckers do not drill into woods; thus, you will not hear them tapping at trees. Instead, the three-toed will grab at chunks of bark, ripping off strips to look for tasty beetle larvae.

American three-toed woodpeckers have only three ties instead of four. Surprising right? And they’re very confident and do not shy away from people.

2. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpeckers are among the woodpeckers in Michigan, and you can see them all year round. However, they may move to the south in winter. 

They are similar to red-headed woodpeckers in appearance and have red crowns, but they are considerably smaller. Females have a red nape but not a red crown.

They have a faint red belly that can be difficult to see. Their backs are marked with the typical black and white patterns. You’ll see them at bird feeders, especially if you live near wooded areas. The loud rolling call they produce makes it likely that you will hear them before you see them.

Red-bellied woodpeckers feed on spiders, insects, and seeds from grasses, fruit, and nuts. However, you may also find them eating nestlings. They build their nests on dead trees and may use the same one year after year.

These woodpeckers have tongues that stick out two inches past the beak with a barbed tip. This, along with their sticky spit, helps them catch prey from deep crevices.

Black oil sunflower seeds can attract these birds to your yard, especially if you combine them with suet. You can also find them at hummingbird feeders, feasting on fruits.

3. Downy Woodpecker

The different types of woodpeckers in Michigan also include the downy woodpecker. It is the smallest bird in North America and may be seen across most continents. You can find them all year round in Michigan.

They’re easily recognizable by the unique pecking sound of their strong beaks hitting tree trunks in search of insects and other goodies. They have a high-pitched, fast call that sounds similar to a whining pip or squeak and gradually decreases in pitch towards the end.

Downy Woodpeckers are little birds, bigger than a sparrow but smaller than a robin. They have a high contrast color of black and white, with virtually checkered or horizontally striped wings. Their heads have distinct vertical stripes, and the males usually have a tiny flash of red feathers on top.

Furthermore, these woodpeckers mostly consume insects, particularly grains, nuts, berries, acorns, and larvae. They are occasionally spotted drinking from hummingbird feeders.

In addition, downy woodpeckers prefer areas to perch but are not picky about where they live. They prefer open woods with deciduous trees but can also be found in urban environments such as parks or vacant lots. A good backyard bird feeder might be enough to entice them as well!

4. Red-headed Woodpecker

These birds are among the types of woodpeckers in Michigan. You can find them in northern Michigan during the breeding season, but they move south during winter. They can be found all year in the south of the state.

These woodpeckers are easy to identify due to their brilliant red heads and black and white strong patterns. Red-headed Woodpeckers have medium-sized spike bills. They have short tails and white undersides, black backs, and huge white bands on their wings.

Furthermore, they can strongly defend their territories, including removing or destroying other birds’ or ducks’ eggs. Red-headed woodpeckers, like other woodpeckers, capture insects in flight as well as in crevices.

Only one-third of their diet comprises beetles, midges, honeybees, and grasshoppers. The remaining two-thirds contain plant materials, including seeds, nuts, and berries. These woodpeckers also take refs or nestlings from other birds.

Red-headed Woodpeckers have a harsh call, build their nests in tree cavities, and lay 4-5 white eggs. Unfortunately, habitat loss has resulted in a 70% population decrease of these birds between 1966 and 2014.

You can find them in open woodlots, farms, dead timbers, or pine savannas. They also visit bird feeders from time to time. You can feed them fruits like apples, berries, and grapes.

5. Black-backed Woodpecker

Fifth on this list of woodpeckers in Michigan is the black-backed woodpecker. You can only find them in the northernmost part of the state. 

They are found all year in most of upper Michigan. Also, near the shores of Lake Michigan at the northern tip of the state. They are robin-sized, black with a white underbelly, and males have a yellow crown on their heads.

Black-backed Woodpeckers primarily feed on wood-boring beetle larvae that bore holes in trees. These birds are naturally attracted to burnt forests. So if you want to see them, you might want to find a nearby forest. 

When they are prepared to nest, they will dig a brand-new hole. As a result, birds like owls, bluebirds, and chickadees benefit from this by having more options to nest.

Black-backed Woodpeckers resemble the American three-toed in appearance with their three toes. However, they’re far more aggressive than the American three-toed and have a lifespan of only 8 years.

Scientists use the black-backed woodpeckers as proof that fire and other environmental conditions significantly influence species evolution.

Additionally, their presence acts as a reminder that naturally occurring forest fires do not result in total devastation. But instead, it shows rich biodiversity and opportunity to re-grow.

6. Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy woodpeckers are among the types of woodpeckers in Michigan. The backs of hairy woodpeckers have a broad, white stripe on them. And the outer edges of their black wings have the same zebra-stripe pattern just below the shoulders.

The belly and breast of this bird are pure white, and their medium-length tails are slightly bigger. These birds have white faces with a black mustache line. They have black bills that are medium in length, straight, and stout. 

These birds range in size from 7.1 to 10.2 inches in length and have wingspans ranging from 13 to 16.1 inches in width. They feed on wood-boring, and bark beetles, as well as moth pupae, plucked straight from their cocoons.

Furthermore, these woodpeckers prefer open woods, particularly oak and pine forests. They can be found in the suburbs and even cemeteries. However, the best place to look for them is in areas of woodland that have recently experienced a fire.

Hairy Woodpeckers have a long lifespan of about 15 years. They’re similar in appearance to downy woodpeckers but more aggressive. You’ll always find them ripping strips of bark from trees to get the tasty insects inside.

7. Pileated Woodpecker

The pileated is one of the largest woodpeckers in Michigan. It only lives in the northern part of the state in forested areas. These mostly blackbirds have a shock of red fringe down their heads which is similar to a punk rocker’s mohawk.

Males have an additional red stripe along their cheeks. They also have the long beaks that woodpeckers are known for. Despite their black appearance, you can identify them in flight by their white underwings.

Furthermore, pileated woodpeckers feed on carpenter ants from fallen logs and dead trees. However, you can also find them eating termites, other insects, fruits, and nuts like berries. They make a shrill, whinnying call and deep, loud drumming.

Pileated woodpeckers use dead trees as nesting sites and usually build new ones yearly. So other bird species make use of the old nest sites. 

Although they’re commonly found in drowned forests or mature forests, you can still see them when they visit backyard feeders for suet. You can also find them by the rectangular holes they leave in trees.

8. Northern Flicker

Northern flickers are also among the woodpeckers in Michigan. These woodpeckers have incredibly stunning plumage. They have brownish-gray backs and long wings with lovely black spots, crescents, and bars.

Also, their wings bear a vibrant yellow or rich red underneath. They have long, flared tails that are brownish-gray on top and black-tipped below, with most of the undersides being red or yellow.

These birds have long, grayish-brown necks with a wide, red line running across the face and ending just past the cheek. The top of their head has soft brown color. They also have long, gray bills that are slightly curved.

Furthermore, woodpeckers prefer open wooded areas, but you can also see them in parks and backyards with well-stocked feeders.

Northern flickers love seeds, fruits, and insects. They burrow into ant mounds with their long bills to snatch them from the ground.

Northern Flickers can be found all year in Michigan and have a lifespan of about 9 years. These beautiful flickers are treasured sightings because of their stunning plumage.

However, don’t look for them in trees because they spend most of their time on the ground. They also peck at trees like other woodpeckers, but it’s more for communication. 

9. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Last in this list of woodpeckers in Michigan is the yellow-bellied sapsucker. This woodpecker is migratory and flies south in the winter. However, you can see them in Michigan in the north during summer for breeding.

It is roughly the size of a robin and is rather small. They have red foreheads, and the male has a red throat. They are mostly black.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers drill holes in trees and extract the sap using their tongues’ brush tips. Watch out for them on young paper birch, yellow birch, red or sugar maple, and hickory trees as they produce clean rows of holes in horizontal rows.

To keep the sap flowing, the holes must be kept clean. They have 5–6 white eggs on average and have a loud mewing call. They nest in tree cavities.

10. Lewis’s Woodpecker

The Lewis’s Woodpecker has a long tail, long black and green wings, and a back that is black and green. These birds have long, straight, black bills slightly slimmer than most other woodpeckers. This makes them look quite sharp and pointy.

You can find these woodpeckers in a wide range of habitats, such as mixed forests, burnt-out forests, and open pine forests. They enjoy eating nuts, fruits, and insects. Also, they store food in cracks and crevices of trees ahead of winter.


That concludes our brief journey into the world of woodpeckers in Michigan. We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Always watch out because you never know when these beautiful birds will visit. Thanks for reading!

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