Woodpeckers in Oregon (Here Are 13 Species)

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Oregon is home to a huge population of wildlife and birds. Thanks to it’s unique geography full of coniferous and mixed forests, high elevations, and coastal areas. A diverse selection of woodpeckers, including sapsuckers and flickers, are found here. Among some of the more common species of woodpeckers, there are also some rare species that can’t be found in most parts of the country. Keep reading to learn all about the 13 species of woodpeckers in Oregon.

13 species of woodpeckers in Oregon

The woodpeckers in Oregon include the Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Black-backed Woodpecker, White-headed Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Acorn Woodpecker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, and Williamson’s Sapsucker.

1. Downy Woodpecker

Length: 5.5-6.7 in
Weight: 0.7-1.0 oz
Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in

The first woodpecker on our list is also the smallest. The Downy Woodpecker is a widespread species of woodpecker found year-round across most of the United States and Canada. It’s also found year-round in Oregon in a wide range of habitats including open woodlands, forests, orchards, groves, and suburban areas.

In fact, it’s a regular visitor to backyard gardens, feeders, and even residential parks. It’s small size allows it to forage in places where larger woodpeckers can’t reach, such as tall weed stems and grasses.

Downy Woodpeckers have predominately black and white colorations very similar to Hairy Woodpeckers. They have white undersides and black uppers with white checkering and a bold white stripe that runs down the back. Males also sport a tiny red patch on the tops of their heads.

Their silhouettes resemble that of a larger woodpecker, with straight backs as they perch on tree trunks and straight, drill-like bills. However, the bills of Downy Woodpeckers tend to be smaller in proportion than other species.


2. Hairy Woodpecker

Length: 7.1-10.2 in
Weight: 1.4-3.4 oz
Wingspan: 13.0-16.1 in

Hairy Woodpeckers look nearly identical to Downy Woodpeckers in plumage coloration. They have mostly black and white plumage with the same white stripe running along their backs. However, Hairy Woodpeckers are larger and possess a longer bill.

Compared to other smaller sized woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers do a lot of drilling and excavating in order to feed on wood-boring insects and larvae. Listen for their drumming and look for them perched on tree trunks and on the main limbs of trees.

Like the Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpeckers are found year-round in Oregon, though not as common in Southeast Oregon. Since they are larger than Downy Woodpeckers, they rely on larger and taller trees and are generally found in more mature forests and open woodlands.

They are less likely to be found in suburbs and backyards, though they will occasionally take advantage of a feeder, especially those stocked with suet.

 


3. Northern Flicker

Length: 11.0-12.2 in
Weight: 3.9-5.6 oz
Wingspan: 16.5-20.1 in

Out of all the woodpeckers found in Oregon, Northern Flickers really stand out as far as coloration. Unlike most species that feature primarily black and white plumages, Northern Flickers are instead brown all over, with lots of patterning on their undersides and wings.

They’re large woodpeckers in between the size of an American Robin and Crow, with smooth, rounded heads and long, tapered tails. There are two distinct types of Northern Flickers; Northern Flickers in the east have bright yellow patches under their wings, but birds in the west, including Oregon, have red.

Northern Flickers are year-round woodpeckers in most of Oregon where they occupy forests and woodlands that also offer open grounds for foraging. A small percentage of the Northern Flickers found in Oregon may be migratory, however.

While most woodpeckers hang out on trees to forage, Northern Flickers are often spotted directly on the ground, using their slightly down-curved bills to dig for ants.


4. Pileated Woodpecker

Length: 15.8-19.3 in
Weight: 8.8-12.3 oz
Wingspan: 26.0-29.5 in

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Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers in Oregon and North America. Their distinct, flaming red crests at the tops of their heads make them pretty easy to spot. Unfortunately, Pileated Woodpeckers are somewhat elusive and hard to spot. They’re found year-round throughout West Oregon all the way to the coast, but they aren’t as common to the east.

They favor large, mature forests that have plenty of rotted and dead wood for foraging. Carpenter ants are the main prey of Pileated Woodpeckers, but they’ll also eat other wood-boring insects in addition to fruits and nuts. Look for their distinct, deep, rectangular holes left in trees and wood to tell if one’s in the area.

These holes also provide a home to other nesting animals, such as bats, owls, and birds.


5. American Three-Toed Woodpecker

American Three-toed Woodpecker | photo by GlacierNPS via Flickr | Public Domain

Length: 8.3-9.1 in
Weight: 1.6-2.4 oz
Wingspan: 14.6-15.3 in

There are small pockets of American Three-toed Woodpeckers living mainly in Northeast Oregon, but in a few other spots as well. They aren’t very common, and their small size and inconspicuous nature don’t make them very easy to find.

American Three-toed Woodpeckers often spend a long time perched on a single tree, either sitting very still or flaking off the bark. Unlike most woodpeckers, these woodpecker don’t rely on drilling or excavating wood and instead peel the bark off with their bills.

American Three-toed Woodpeckers are about the size of an American Robin, in between the size of a Downy and Hairy Woodpecker. Their bills are fairly short, but are strong and sturdy to help them pick off bark. They’re mostly black and white, with fine black barring on their white undersides. Males have a dull yellow patch on their foreheads.


6. Black-Backed Woodpecker

Black-backed Woodpecker | image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region via Flickr | Public Domain

Length: 9.1 in
Weight: 2.1-3.1 oz
Wingspan: 15.8-16.5 in

Black-backed Woodpeckers are similar to American Three-toed Woodpeckers. They occupy generally the same areas of the state, the Northeast and parts of Central Oregon, where they’re also found year-round. Black-backed Woodpeckers aren’t very common, but they do tend to be more noticeable than American Three-toed Woodpeckers.

Black-backed Woodpeckers are usually the dominate species in places where both species of woodpeckers occur — they often drive away American Three-toed Woodpeckers from their territories.

These woodpeckers are medium-sized birds, around the same size as a Hairy Woodpecker. Their coloration is close to the American Three-toed Woodpecker’s, but with less barring on the back and wings. The solid black plumage on their backs helps them blend into charred trees in forests where wildfires had occurred.

Black-backed Woodpeckers flock to these burned areas to feast on the larvae of wood-boring beetles and other insects, and will occupy these territories for years.


7. White-Headed Woodpecker

image by PEHart via Flickr | BY-SA CC 2.0

Length: 8.3-9.1 in
Weight: 1.9-2.3 oz
Wingspan: 16.9 in

White-headed Woodpeckers are found year-round in only a few patchy areas of Oregon. They favor mountainous pine forests and aren’t typically found in woodlands without pines. These woodpeckers love pine seeds and cones, so look for them in forests with lots of ponderosa, Jeffery, Coulter, and sugar pines.

Like Black-backed and American three-toed Woodpeckers, White-headed Woodpeckers don’t prefer to drill into trees but rather pull and peel the bark away from trees. They’ll also flock to burned forests to take advantage of the insects there.

White-headed Woodpeckers are about the same size of an American Robin, with mostly inky black plumage all over, except for their bright white heads and white stripes on their wings.

Adult Males also have a vibrant red patch on their heads similar to other species of woodpeckers. Compared to other woodpeckers, they have long wings and tails, and a short, pointed bill.


8. Red-Breasted Sapsucker

image by ALAN SCHMIERER via Flickr | Public Domain

Length: 7.9-8.7 in
Weight: 1.9-2.2 oz
Wingspan: 14.6-16.0 in

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Red-breasted Sapsuckers are found year-round in the Western third of Oregon, along the coast. They mostly reside in coniferous forests, but in the winter they extend their habitats to other trees, too.

For a long time Red-breasted Sapsuckers, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and Red-naped Sapsuckers were believed to belong to the same species, so not much information has been studied about the differences in behavior.

Red-breasted Sapsuckers are medium sized woodpeckers with sold red heads and red chests. The rest of their bodies are covered in black and white plumage. They forage the same way other sapsuckers do, by drilling small sap wells into trees in order to lap up the tree sap as it flows.


9. Williamson’s Sapsucker

image by ALAN SCHMIERER via Flickr | Public Domain

Length: 8.3-9.8 in
Weight: 1.6-1.9 oz
Wingspan: 13-15 in

There’s a thin strip running north to south in the middle of Oregon where Williamson’s Sapsuckers are found during the breeding season. You may also find these guys in the northeast corner of the state.

They occupy mountainous forests of pine and aspen. Like other sapsuckers, Williamson’s Sapsuckers drill sap wells into trees in order to tap into the sap supply inside. This is much like tapping trees for maple syrup.

They also eat insects, fruits, and plant material such as cambium. They’re mostly quiet birds, but during the spring their drumming and high-pitched, nasal calls are heard more frequently.

Williamson’s Sapsuckers have extreme differences in appearance between males and females, so much so that they were once thought to be different species. Males are mostly black with a yellow belly, white patches on the wings, and bright red throat. However, females have a pale brown head, with black and white banding on their bodies.


10. Lewis’s Woodpecker

image by seabamirum via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Length: 10.2-11.0 in
Weight: 3.1-4.9 oz
Wingspan:  19.3-20.5 in

Lewis’s Woodpeckers aren’t very common in Oregon, though they can be found at various times of the year in most parts of the state if you know when and where to look. They tend to stay in pine forests and forests that have been burned.

Their populations are often unpredictable, especially after breeding season when they travel around looking for stores of acorns and nuts. They take these foods and store them in crevices to last them throughout the winter.

Unlike a lot of other woodpeckers, Lewis’s Woodpeckers mostly feed by catching insects in midair. They have broad, rounded wings that gives their flight a graceful, crow-like quality. Their coloration is also unique and features a pink belly, red patch on the face, and a dark, iridescent green on their back and wings.


11. Red-Naped Sapsucker

Length: 7.5-8.3 in
Weight: 1.1-2.3 oz
Wingspan: 16.1-16.9 in

Red-naped Sapsuckers are found during breeding season in the eastern half of Oregon. They typically reside in mixed forests of pines, aspens, and willows, though outside of breeding season they’re also found in oak forests. Like other sapsuckers, Red-naped Sapsuckers rely on tree sap for their main source of food.

Their small, orderly rows of sap wells is a good indication that they may be around. Their irregular and slow drumming, as well as their sharp calls are other good identifiers to look out for.

Red-naped Sapsuckers are medium sized woodpeckers with short, sharp bills. Adults are mostly black and white, with white stripes on their faces and bright red patches on their heads. Their bellies are pale with black and white mottling and a pale yellow patch. Females have a small white patch on their red throats, while males’ throats are completely red.


12. Nuttall’s Woodpecker

image by PEHart via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Length: 6.3-7.1 in 
Weight: 1.1-1.6 oz 
Wingspan: 13.0-16.1 in

Nuttall’s Woodpeckers are found in Northern California, Southern California, as well as most of central and coastal California. California is just about the only state that these small woodpeckers can be found in the country as well as the world.

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Or is it? There have been numerous sightings of these birds in far southern areas of of Oregon over the years, near the border to Northern California. So the Nuttall’s Woodpecker does sometimes stray to Southern Oregon, though they aren’t at all common in the state.

In appearance they look similar to Ladder-backed Woodpeckers as well as Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers. They live in Oak woodlands, and that’s about the only place you’ll see them. Though you may be able to attract them to your yard by offering suet, if they are nesting nearby.

They are named after Thomas Nuttall, an English botanist and ornithologist.


13. Acorn Woodpecker

Length: 7.5-9.1 in
Weight: 2.3-3.2 oz
Wingspan: 13.8-16.9 in

Acorn Woodpeckers are mostly found in West Oregon, not so much in the rest of the state. Look for them in pine or oak forests, they are fairly easy to recognize by their markings as no other woodpeckers look quite like they do. Their heads are red, black, and white.

Their backs and wings are black, and their underbodies are mostly light but with dark chests. Also you can see the white feathers on their outer wings. They’re quite mottled in color.

To me, what makes the acorn woodpeckers so interesting is their behavior when it comes to food. Obviously they do eat acorns, hence the name Acorn Woodpeckers, but it’s what they do with them that’s fascinating.

All year long these little guys will take the acorns and store them in holes all over the place by jamming them in so that they become hard to remove for thieves.

This saves food stores for them when it’s hard to come by. On top of that they will have these caches of nuts heavily guarded by members of their groups, or families, always on the lookout for thieves. No other woodpeckers behave in this way socially.


How to attract woodpeckers

For many of us, attracting woodpeckers to our feeders or yards is something we love. They are quite as commonly seen as chickadees, titmice, or cardinals and add a bit of excitement. However they are harder to spot and also harder to attract. Here are some tips on how to attract woodpeckers to your yard.

  • Offer food they like – Many types of woodpeckers are known for visiting bird feeders. 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.
  • Leave dead trees alone – Woodpeckers love dead and dying trees that are easy to bore holes in and have plenty of insect larvae for them to eat.
  • Put up nest boxes – Many species of woodpeckers will use nest boxes. Pileated woodpeckers have a history of using nesting boxes from May to July.
  • 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.
  • Don’t forget the water – 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.

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