There are over 300 species of woodpeckers in the world, about 22 of which are found in the United States. Of those 22 species we’ve determined that there are 9 species of woodpeckers in Colorado. Several of these are year-round residents to Colorado while others just live there part time.
In this article we’re going to talk about all 9 of these species of these Colorado woodpeckers. For each species we’ll have a picture to help you identify it, a bit about its size, a brief description with some fun facts, as well as tell you where and when they can be found in the state of Colorado.
Be sure to read to the end where we’ll talk about how to attract woodpeckers to your yard.
The 9 woodpeckers in Colorado
The 9 species of woodpeckers found in Colorado are the Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Red-naped Sapsucker, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, and the Northern Flicker.
1. Downy Woodpecker
Length: 5.5-6.7 in
Weight: 0.7-1.0 oz
Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in
Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest of all woodpeckers in Colorado (and North America) and they can be found throughout the state all year. They are very common at feeders and easily attracted with suet, peanuts, mixed seed, or black sunflower seed. Whenever I put up a new feeder in my yard, Downys are always among the first to visit it along with chickadees and titmice. They do not migrate and are also very common in the winter time.
Aside from being frequent visitors at bird feeders, they also will hammer away at trees looking for insect larvae or feed on berries and acorns. It’s also not unusual to catch a Downy Woodpecker drinking nectar from a hummingbird feeder. Downy Woodpeckers prefer nesting in dead trees or dead branches on live trees.
2. Hairy Woodpecker
Length: 7.1-10.2 in
Weight: 1.4-3.4 oz
Wingspan: 13.0-16.1 in
Next up is the Hairy Woodpecker who looks strikingly similar to the Downy. These two can be downright difficult to tell apart except for the larger size of the Hairy. See the image below that shows them side by side. The Downy is on the left and the Hairy is on the right. The images aren’t to scale but you can see a few differing features. The Downy shot is a bit closer up so the size difference is hard to gauge, but the Hairy Woodpecker is noticeably larger and has a longer beak.
The Hairy Woodpecker is also a year-round resident to Colorado and the majority of the United States. They are very commonly seen at bird feeders and eat all of the same things as their little brother the Downy. It’s quite possible you’ve seen them both and just assumed they were the same species.
3. Red-bellied Woodpecker
Length: 9.4 in
Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz
Wingspan: 13.0-16.5 in
Red-bellied Woodpeckers are only found in the northeastern corner of Colorado, so they are quite rare in the state. They are significantly larger than Downy Woodpeckers and very similar in size to Hairy Woodpeckers. They can also be seen frequenting bird feeders, especially suet feeders.
At first glance you notice their red heads but resist the temptation to call the Red-headed Woodpeckers, once you scroll down to the next woodpecker in Colorado you’ll see the difference. Red-bellied Woodpeckers do have a red stomach but it is more of a pale red but is often unnoticeable when they are up against a tree or feeder. Instead look for their black and white barred wings and red mohawk down their neck to identify them.
4. Red-headed Woodpecker
Length: 7.5-9.1 in
Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz
Wingspan: 16.5 in
Red-headed Woodpeckers are less common at bird feeders than the first 3 on this list of woodpeckers in Colorado. They have a breeding-only range in the Eastern Colorado only. They can sometimes be seen visiting bird feeders and then darting to a tree where they will stash the tasty treats in holes or bark for another day.
Red-headed Woodpeckers feed mostly on insects like beetles, seeds, and berries. They are also considered to be among the most skilled flycatchers when it comes to woodpeckers and will commonly store live insects that they catch in tree bark for later. You can recognize them by their bright red heads with black and white bodies, they are quite unmistakable. Their population has been on the decline for sometime and they are becoming more and more rare to see in some places.
5. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Length: 6.3-7.1 in
Weight: 0.7-1.7 oz
Wingspan: 13.0 in
These small woodpeckers are found in parts of Southeastern Colorado year-round. Once known as the “cactus woodpecker”, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers primarily live in deserts, scrublands, and and thorn-forests where they find plenty of insect larvae and insects.
Your best chance to spot one of these woodpeckers is between January and March when they are pairing up for the breeding season, look in the early morning when they are most active. Ladder-backed Woodpeckers are non-migratory and found within their range all year. According to allaboutbirds.org, they are commonly found clusters of cholla, Joshua trees, juniper, willow, or honey mesquite.
6. Northern Flicker
Length: 11.0-12.2 in
Weight: 3.9-5.6 oz
Wingspan: 16.5-20.1 in
Northern Flickers are colorful birds found throughout Colorado all year that frequent backyards. While they do occasionally visit feeders, they mostly eat ants from the ground by picking through leaves and dirt and snatching them with their long tongues. Aside from the ants they will eat other invertebrates as well as berries, sunflower seeds, and thistle.
Even though they find their food on the ground, they do drum on trees often as a form of communication. They prefer nesting in old and rotting trees like most other woodpeckers. Northern Flickers are identified by their spotted underbellies, black bibs, red on the back of their necks, and yellow on their tails. They are fairly large in size, noticeably bigger than a hairy woodpecker but much smaller than a Pileated Woodpecker.
7. American Three-toed Woodpecker
Length: 8.3-9.1 in
Weight: 1.6-2.4 oz
Wingspan: 14.6-15.3 in
Aside from a few other states in the Northwest, Colorado is actually one of the few states that the American Three-toed Woodpecker calls home. They are mainly found in central parts of Colorado, especially in the forests of the Rocky Mountains. They prefer damaged, old growth forests with lots of dead or even burned trees where they can extract insect larvae and mine for bugs easily.
The majority of woodpeckers have 4 toes, or Zygodactyl toes. However as the name suggests, these woodpeckers have just 3 toes. It is believed that the Three-toed Woodpecker is able to lean back further and strike a more powerful blow to its target because of the leverage having just 3 toes affords it.
Overall these woodpeckers are not common in the U.S. and are not often seen at feeders, if at all.
8. Williamson’s Sapsucker
Length: 8.3-9.8 in
Weight: 1.6-1.9 oz
Wingspan: 17 inches
Williamson’s Sapsuckers are only found in a handful of midwestern states, Colorado being one of them. They have a breeding-only range in the state, so look for them in the warmer months when they are pairing up to mate. They feed primarily on the sap of coniferous trees, extracting it by drilling sapwells. Sapsuckers also feed on a variety of insects.
Uncommon in backyards, Williamson’s Sapsuckers are primarily found in the forests of the Rocky Mountains and westward from there. They roost in natural or excavated cavities and prefer nesting in a larger, older trees.
9. Red-naped Sapsucker
Length: 7.5-8.3 in
Weight: 1.1-2.3 oz
Wingspan: 16.1-16.9 in
The other species of sapsucker found in Colorado is the Red-naped Sapsucker. They are found in central and western parts of Colorado during breeding season, and spend their winters in Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico. Like other sapsuckers, Williamson’s Sapsuckers do not visit bird feeders but may be seen in certain backyards if you know where to look.
These sapsuckers are more closely related to Red-breasted and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers than they are Williamson’s Sapsuckers, but they are still very similar in many ways. Many believe that because of the name, sapsuckers will “suck” the sap from the tree, when they actually sip on it with their long tongues from the sapwells that they make.
How to attract woodpeckers to your yard in Colorado
For many of us, attracting birds of all types to our feeders and backyards is something we love. Woodpeckers are commonly seen in yards and visiting bird feeders, however they are usually harder to spot and also harder to attract. Here are 5 tips on how to attract woodpeckers to your backyard.
1. Put out a suet feeder
Several types of woodpeckers are common at bird feeders, if you are offering what they like. Consider putting up a suet feeder as well as offering black sunflower seed. Be sure to get a suet feeder with a tail prop area that will help attract larger woodpeckers, like Pileated Woodpeckers. Here’s a nice suet feeder on Amazon that has an extra long tail prop area and holds 2 suet cakes.
I like to buy suet in bulk because my birds go through it so quickly.
2. Let dead trees be
Woodpeckers love dead and dying trees. They are easy to bore holes in and have plenty of insect larvae for them to eat.
3. Try nest boxes
Many species of woodpeckers will use nest boxes. Pileated woodpeckers have a history of using nesting boxes from May to July. This one on Amazon attracts Red-headed, Red-bellied, and Hairy Woodpeckers.
4. Plant native fruit bearing plants and trees
Woodpeckers may sometimes relish fruits and berries such as dogwood, serviceberry, tupelo, mountain ash, strawberry, cherry, grapes, bayberry, holly, blueberries, apples, mulberry, brambles, and elderberries.
5. Put out a birdbath or fountain
Woodpeckers will use bird baths like any other birds so have a water source available, preferably with a water mover or solar fountain to help attract them. Solar fountains with batteries tend to work the best so that the fountain doesn’t stop every time the sun goes behind a cloud.
Having trouble with woodpeckers drumming on your house, and even causing damage? Check out this article for some tips to get rid of them without hurting them!