8 Different Types of Woodpeckers in New Jersey

Woodpeckers in New Jersey
Photo by Vincent van Zalinge

Even though it has the highest population density in the United States, There are numerous types of woodpeckers in new jersey. This is not surprising when one considers that the state is widely referred to as the Garden State.

The birds known as woodpeckers have developed a specialized adaptation that helps them locate their food.

Each individual in this genus possesses a robust and fortified skull that shields their brain from damage caused by the specialized beak they use to drill into trees.

They do this not just to find food but also to make holes for nesting and communicate with other species members.

They also have a long tongue that is usually sticky and has barbs on the end of it. This tongue act as a mechanism to grip insects and drag them into their waiting mouth.

In this piece, we will concentrate on several species of woodpeckers in New Jersey, located in the New England region.

Continue reading to learn more about the eight species of woodpeckers in New Jersey and get a better idea of how each one differs from the others.

1. Downy Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Picoides pubescens
  • Height: 5.5-7.1 inches
  • Weight: 0.74-0.99 ounces

New Jersey is home to a variety of woodpeckers, the smallest of which is the Downy Woodpecker. It is widespread over the state and has been able to adjust reasonably well to the presence of people.

People gave it the endearing nickname “Downy” due to the fluffy quality of the fur that covered its back, which is where it got its name.

These woodpeckers in New Jersey have a striking pattern of black and white stripes, with contrasting light and dark bars on their wings and a broad white stripe running down their backs.

The males have a brilliant red dot at the nape of the neck, while the females do not have this feature. The patterns of the males and females are just slightly distinct.

They spend most of their time clinging to the trunks and branches of various trees. As is the case with the majority of woodpeckers in New Jersey, they have a specific type of foot known as zygodactyl feet, which consists of two toes pointing forward and two pointing backward.

When searching for food, they can use their feet to cling to the edge of a tree and look for insects, nuts, and berries.

Since of their smaller size, they can crawl up to the tips of smaller branches, which other woodpeckers cannot reach because the branches are too heavy for them to access. This allows them to forage for a variety of nuts and berries.

2. Hairy Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Picoides villosus
  • Height: 9-9.5 inches
  • Weight: 0.74-0.99 ounces

Both the Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers have patterns of black and white stripes with a red dot on the nape, so at first glance, it would be easy to mistake one for the other.

However, these two woodpeckers in New Jersey belong to different species. It is obviously not helpful that they occupy similar locations throughout the state of New Jersey; nonetheless, there are some significant variances between the two.

Because of its all-white tail feathers and bigger beak, the Hairy Woodpecker presents novice bird watchers with a tough challenge.

The majority of their diet consists of insects, although they also get some nutrition from plant debris. You can easily spot them in more mature forests with older tree growth.

This species of Woodpecker gets along well with the other members of its family, and it even uses the other species to its advantage.

They will habitually follow the loud drumming of pileated woodpeckers in the hopes of locating easy prey. Following the departure of the Pileated Woodpecker, the Hairy Woodpecker will explore the large holes left behind and catch any insects that may have been overlooked.

In addition, they will follow the paths Sapsuckers took to find food that is more readily available to them. It has been seen that they pick at the sap left behind by the Sapsucker.

They are also notorious for boring holes in sugar cane to obtain the sweet liquid, which leads many to believe they have a sweet tooth.

3. Northern Flicker

  • Scientific name: Colaptes auratus
  • Height: 7-15 inches
  • Weight: 4.2 ounces

There is a year-round population of the Northern Flicker in New Jersey; however, the birds that people see during the winter are not the same as those seen during the spring and summer.

The state’s winter birds spend the summer in more northern parts of the state, while the summer birds migrate south for the winter. Most of the time, you can see them on lawns looking for ants.

When in flight, a flare of yellow emanates from behind their wings. Because it lives predominantly in many built-up regions, you can frequently spot it at bird feeders and other popular places in the community.

This Woodpecker’s primary diet consists of invertebrates like ants and grubs, although it will also eat seeds and berries if available. A Northern Flicker is the most probable bird to be seen climbing vertically up the trunk of a tree if you should happen to see one doing so.

In addition to having zygodactyl feet, which give it the ability to grasp, it also has stiff, pointed tail feathers that protrude from its body at just the proper angle to act as a balanced prop. In addition, it is one of only three species of woodpeckers in New Jersey that migrates.

4. Pileated Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Dryocopus pileatus
  • Height: 16-19 inches
  • Weight: 8.8-14 ounces


The Pileated Woodpecker is quite popular because of its loud noise, which one can hear from kilometers away. It is extremely loud and boisterous. Even with its noisy nature, this bird is timid and a rare sight.

Even though it has a bright red crest that makes it almost immediately recognizable, they are not all that common in New Jersey, which is one reason local birdwatchers get so excited when they see one.

You will almost certainly be aware of the presence of one of these woodpeckers in your garden if you do. The enormous, rectangular holes this bird leaves behind in the trees as it looks for its favorite food – carpenter ants โ€“ have become its most recognizable trait.

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest species of woodpecker in New Jersey and throughout North America. In addition, the holes they make provide an excellent source of food for various birds, not just those of their own species.

It makes a characteristic drumming sound that attracts other birds, such as the Hairy Woodpecker, that move more slowly at first, then move more quickly, and then move even more slowly.

This bird likes hammering into dead and decaying logs with softer bark to look for termites and ants, contrary to the widespread belief that it drills into living trees.

As people have encroached further and farther into their range, this species has gradually been coming closer to the parks and woodlots located around the fringes of large towns.

Even though they are difficult to find in New Jersey at the moment, their population is expanding, and there are ever more reports of sightings each year.

5. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

  • Scientific name: Sphyrapicus varius
  • Height: 7.5-8.3
  • Weight: 1.6 ounces

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was once common in the region, but because of human activities such as deforestation and the use of pesticides, their population has significantly decreased.

There is currently a sizable colony that has established itself in the Stokes State Forest in Sussex County, and conservation measures are underway to ensure this bird’s survival in the state of New Jersey.

The cat-like sounds and staccato pounding this species of Woodpecker makes while perching on tree trunks contribute to its relatively loud and boisterous nature.

The Sapsucker is a bird that bores tiny holes in the bark of trees, typically in rows that are evenly spaced apart, in order to collect the sap that runs out.

It will return to these sap wells regularly to indulge its sweet tooth by pecking at the sap, which will also serve as a magnet for a variety of different insect species, such as ants.

They will still harvest insects from the tree trunk in a more classic woodpecker approach, which involves drilling and taking out insects with a sticky tongue, but they are not bound to it in any way.

6. Red-bellied Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Melanerpes carolinus
  • Height: 9-10.5 inches
  • Weight: 2.2 ounces

Since the 1860s, when deforestation was prominent, the population of the Red-bellied Woodpecker has decreased throughout the northeast, where it was once somewhat common.

There are reports that they are nesting all across the state of New Jersey. Their moniker is a bit of a misnomer because the ruddy blush on their bellies only appears during the breeding season when they are actively courting or mating.

The rest of the year brings nothing but cloudy skies. The red coloration that stays consistent throughout the year on this bird is particularly noticeable on its head and nape.

When they want to communicate with one another, they will emit a wide range of sounds, such as trills, giggles, and constant drumming on trees.

Like most woodpeckers in New Jersey, this species has a tongue with a barbed tip covered in sticky saliva. This adaptation allows the bird to slip its tongue into fissures produced in tree bark in order to find food.

It’s been hypothesized that males have a more extended and wider-tipped tongue than females because they can have an advantage when it comes to mating with other individuals.

Each individual may be able to forage in somewhat varied locations within their region, which will, in turn, optimize the amount of food that they can collect. Eventually, this results in stronger chicks reflecting this dimorphism in their physical characteristics.

7. Red-headed Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus
  • Height: 7.5-9.8 inches
  • Weight: 2-3.4 ounces

New Jersey residents have an exceedingly soft spot for the Red-headed Woodpecker. They have been under the protection of the state for many years, and the residents put their image on a number of license plates that promote conservation.

It breeds randomly around the state, and because it occurs so infrequently, local birdwatchers consider it to be a significant event when it does. The Red-headed Woodpecker has a vivid redhead, which appears after the animals reach adulthood.

Before they get their adult plumage, immature juveniles have brown heads and are significantly drabber and better able to blend in with their surroundings.

These particular woodpeckers in New Jersey use a somewhat unconventional strategy for catching food. Although it does still drill for insects, it also has the ability to grab insects while they are in flight and will store food in cracks and crevices in its environment.

They also successfully wedge live grasshoppers into these crevices, storing them away for a later meal and occasionally covering them with bark or leaves.

This practice has been documented on multiple occasions. They have striking patterns, are simple to recognize, and constantly move around.

Red-headed Woodpeckers reside in open pine plantations, tree rows in agricultural regions, and standing timber in beaver swamps and other wetlands.

Once they have established themselves in a territory, they become extremely possessive of it and will go to great lengths to defend it, even if it means destroying the eggs of other species or poking holes in duck eggs.

As a result of this deed, the Red-headed Woodpecker became a war symbol for the Cherokee Indians for many generations.

8. Black-backed Woodpecker

  • Scientific Name: Picoides arcticus
  • Height: 9.1 inches
  • Weight: 2.1-3.1 oz.

The Black-backed are one of the woodpeckers in New Jersey found in a wide variety of habitats around the state. However, they are very abundant here.

The Pine Barrens is where one is most likely to spot one of these birds, although one can also look for them along rivers and creeks.

You can do several different things to entice these birds to come to your yard, such as setting up a feeding station, installing a nest box, and embellishing your yard with tree branches that the birds may use to build their nests.

The Black-backed Woodpecker is a species of bird that travels throughout much of North America during its lifetime. Bird watchers can find it in every state outside Alaska, and its range extends from the east coast to the west coast of the United States.

This bird makes it home in the woods most of the time, but you can also spot them in suburban areas and even in suburban regions close to forests.

The black-backed Woodpecker is a generalist feeder that consumes beetle larvae, insects, other small animals, and other types of food. To construct its nest, it bores a hole into rotten or damaged trees.

Monogamous by nature, these birds often only have one partner for the entirety of their lives. The female Black-backed Woodpecker usually produces six eggs throughout each cycle, although occasionally, she will only lay three eggs.

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