13 Species of Woodpeckers in Oregon

Woodpeckers in Oregon
Photo by John Yunker

Woodpeckers are fascinating and beautiful birds that have adapted to living in Oregon’s varied habitat.

From the red-breasted sapsucker to the pileated woodpecker, there are 13 species of woodpeckers in Oregon and 12 subspecies of the yellow-bellied sapsucker.

This list includes their scientific names, common names, and where they can be found in Oregon. If you see colorful birds pecking away at a tree or telephone pole, get out your binoculars and scope them out!

1. Downy Woodpecker

Downy woodpeckers are woodpeckers in Oregon and the smallest in North America, measuring just six to seven inches in length. These birds are found throughout Oregon, particularly in forests and woodlands. Look for them year-round, as they don’t migrate. 

The Downy Woodpecker has a black back with white spots, a black head with a white stripe down the middle, and a white belly. They eat insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates. 

You might hear their characteristic tik-tik-tik drumming on trees or see them clinging upside down as they feed on insects. Males have red patches of feathers on the backs of their heads during the breeding season. 

2. Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers in Oregon, measuring around 9 inches long. The adult male has a red patch on the back of its head, while the female has a white one. These woodpeckers can be found throughout the state in coniferous and deciduous forests. 

Look for them near dead trees, where they will be searching for insects to eat. If you hear a loud drumming noise, it is likely a Hairy Woodpecker trying to communicate or attract a mate. They also use their bills to excavate nests, usually located within cavities high up in tree trunks. 

Other species similar in size to the Hairy Woodpecker include the Downy, Lewis’s, Northern Flicker, and Pileated Woodpeckers. All of th birds have distinctive markings; some males have bright colors on their heads, while females tend to have duller colors.

3. Northern Flicker

If you’re lucky enough to spot woodpeckers in Oregon, it’s likely to be a Northern Flicker. These beautiful birds are found throughout the state, and their striking plumage is hard to miss.

If you’re hoping to see one, keep your eyes peeled for open woodlands and parks – that’s where they like to hang out, and if you’re fortunate, you might even hear them drumming on a tree trunk! 

Listen carefully, and you’ll notice that different types of woodpeckers produce sounds unique to each bird. Listen for loud rapping, a wood knock from the pileated woodpecker, or perhaps tap-tap-tapping from a downy woodpecker as it finds insects beneath the bark of trees. 

The acorn woodpecker drums loudly on dead snags while the Lewis woodpecker pounds at dead limbs and old buildings with its small hammering bill.

Even though we’ve listed 13 species of woodpeckers in Oregon here, many more are living throughout the state, all worth keeping an eye out for!

4. Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in North America, measuring 18-21 inches in length with a wingspan of up to 30 inches.

These woodpeckers in Oregon are black with white stripes on their face and neck and a red crest on their head. 

You can find Pileated Woodpeckers throughout Oregon, but they are most common in the western part of the state. Look for them in forests, especially those with Douglas fir trees.

If you want to see a Pileated Woodpecker, spend some time in an old-growth forest near Eugene or Florence. 

5. American Three-toed Woodpecker

The American three-toed woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker in North America, measuring just six to seven inches in length.

It’s black and white with a large white patch on its wings, and its tail is black with white bars. The American three-toed woodpecker can be found in forests across Oregon, particularly in the Cascade Mountains. 

Look for it year-round, but it’s most active in spring and summer when it’s breeding. Males use a drumming technique to attract females: first, they tap their bill against their head or another object.

Then they shift the account from one side of their head to the other, alternating at high speed to sound like an old-fashioned machine gun firing into the air. 

They’ll also sing while drumming if they’re near an object that resonates nicely, such as tree trunks or metal pipes. If you hear a steady tapping sound without any variation, then it might be the work of 

6. Black-backed Woodpecker

The Black-backed woodpeckers are the largest in North America and great woodpeckers in Oregon, measuring up to 19 inches in length.

This powerful bird can be found in forests across the western United States, including Oregon. Look for them near dead or dying trees, which feed on insects beneath the bark. 

The Black-backed Woodpecker’s distinctive black and white plumage makes it easy to identify. They have a black back, wings, and tail, with white underparts. Males are more significant than females, and their head has a red crest that recedes during winter. 

Their diet consists mainly of insects that live under tree bark, but they also eat acorns and fungi when food is scarce. These birds typically make their homes in dead or dying trees. 

7. White-headed Woodpecker

The White-headed Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker found in forests throughout North America. In Oregon, they are most commonly found in the Cascade Mountains. These woodpeckers in Oregon are black with white stripes on their head and back and have white bellies. 

Males have a red patch on the back of their heads, while females have a yellow patch. Both sexes have a black bill and dark eyes. White-headed woodpeckers eat insects, acorns, berries, and nuts. 

They nest in cavities excavated by both parents. You often hear them drumming on trees as they search for food or make nests.

The drumming sounds like someone tapping on the ground with a wooden stick. When they find an insect, they use their long tongue to pick it up and toss it into their mouth.

8. Red-breasted Sapsucker

The red-breasted sapsucker is a small to medium-sized woodpecker found in forests across North America. In Oregon, they are most commonly found in the Cascade Mountains.

These woodpeckers in Oregon get their name from their habit of drilling holes into trees and licking up the sap that oozes out. 

Red-breasted sapsuckers are sexually dimorphic, meaning that males and females look different. Males have a red head and breast, while females have a gray head and breast. Both sexes have white stripes running down their backs and wings. 

These birds are cavity nesters, meaning they excavate their nest holes in trees. If you’re lucky enough to spot a red-breasted sapsucker, you’ll likely hear them before you see them. They make short taps on tree trunks as they search for sap. 

Red-breasted sapsuckers feed primarily on insects and eat fruit and seeds when available. They can be seen all year long in eastern Oregon’s dry forest zones, where the forest floor has an open understory and abundant snags (dead or dying trees).

9. Lewis’s Woodpecker

Lewis’s woodpeckers are one of the unique woodpeckers in Oregon. Their long beaks and reddish-brown plumage characterize them. These birds are found in forests throughout the state but are most commonly seen in the Willamette Valley. 

If you’re lucky enough to spot one of these birds, you’ll likely hear them before you see them – they make a loud pik-a-pik sound that is unmistakable.

The best time to view this species is during nesting season when they’re busy hammering away at trees to create cavities for their young.

You’ll find these birds near Douglas Fir trees, which they favor for nesting due to the soft bark on this tree’s trunk. 

Along with Lewis’ Woodpecker, other woodpeckers include Acorn Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, and Downy Woodpecker. 

All five can be found in various parts of Oregon year-round. Most visit our state from December through March, when their breeding season begins and ends.

10. Acorn Woodpecker

The Acorn Woodpecker is a small, chunky woodpecker that is black and white with a striking red cap. These woodpeckers are found in open woodlands with oaks, especially along the coast of California and southern Oregon. Acorn Woodpeckers drill holes into trees to store acorns, which they later use as food. 

They often build their nests in these same trees. If you’re lucky enough to see an Acorn Woodpecker, you’ll likely hear its loud, metallic-sounding call first. Listen for it in coastal California or Southern Oregon’s open woodlands. 

Don’t forget to look up to them! Their calls sound like squeaky chalkboard sounds–you might not even notice them if you don’t listen for their call.

When they’re perched on branches, look for the giant red spot on top of their head–that will help identify them if you can’t tell by their size and color pattern.

11. Red-naped Sapsucker

The red-naped sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker found in western North America. These types of woodpeckers in Oregon have dark with a white throat and belly and a red cap on their head. This woodpecker drills tiny holes in trees to get at the sap, which it licks up with its long tongue. 

You can find red-naped sapsuckers in forests of western Oregon, particularly near Douglas fir trees. Look for them year-round, but they are most active in spring and summer when they are nesting.

Red-naped sapsuckers generally build their nests in sizeable live oak or pine trees. They typically lay 3-4 eggs that hatch after about 18 days.

Once the chicks have hatched, both parents take turns feeding them. For the first few weeks of life, a babe only needs one meal per day from its parents (usually four times each day). 

At six weeks old, it starts eating more food and requires six daily feedings from its parents. Parents continue feeding their chicks until they leave the nest at 10-12 weeks old.

12. Nuttall’s Woodpecker

Nuttall’s woodpeckers are found in forests throughout Oregon. They are small, black-and-white birds with a red cap on the male. These woodpeckers eat insects and spiders, which they find by pecking at tree bark. 

Look for them in open woodlands near streams or water sources. Listen for their high-pitched call: weeEEE! weeEEE! These species of woodpeckers in Oregon are a relative newcomer, having been introduced about 100 years ago from Canada. 

The northern flicker can be identified by its dark red-brown color, white underparts, yellow back and wings, brown streaks on its head and nape (back of neck), and brownish feathers on its breast abruptly along the belly line.

13. Williamson’s Sapsucker

Williamson’s Sapsucker is one of the thirteen species of woodpeckers in Oregon. This bird is about the size of a robin and has black, white, and yellow plumage. The male has a red throat patch that the female lacks. 

Williamson’s Sapsuckers are found in coniferous forests in the western Cascades and southeastern corner of the state. Look for them from April to September, tapping on trees or flying from tree to tree in search of insects. They prefer large old trees with open canopies to nest in. 

It is not uncommon to see this bird flying low over snowfields, looking for food under the surface. These birds need to eat a lot because they have only one row of tiny teeth.

Williamson’s Sapsuckers also use their beaks like hammers, pounding wood chips and bugs off bark so they can swallow them whole.

Conclusion

If you love woodpeckers or are simply looking for a new birding adventure, then checking out some of these woodpeckers in Oregon is a great idea!

Head to the state’s east side for Williamson’s Sapsuckers or Lewis’s Woodpeckers. Or, explore southern Oregon for Red-shafted Flickers. 

No matter where you go in Oregon, there’s sure to be a woodpecker species waiting to be discovered! Take your time and enjoy this 13-part series as you make your way across the state. Happy birding!

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