There are over 300 species of woodpeckers in the world, about 22 of which are found in the United States. Of those 22 species I’ve found that there are 7 species of woodpeckers in West Virginia, several are year-round residents to West Virginia while others just live there part time.
In this article we’re going to talk about all 7 of these species of 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 where and when they can be found in the state of West Virginia.
Be sure to read to the end where we’ll talk about how to attract woodpeckers to your yard, and even repel them if they are causing problems for you.
Woodpeckers in West Virginia
The 7 species of woodpeckers found in West Virginia are the Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, and the Pileated Woodpecker.
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 West Virginia as well as North America, and can be found all year throughout the whole state. 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, Downy Woodpeckers 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, they can be downright difficult to tell apart except fro 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 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 West Virginia 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 common throughout West Virginia year round. They are significantly larger than Downy Woodpeckers and very similar in size to Hairy Woodpeckers, maybe a tad bigger. 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 them Red-headed Woodpeckers, once you scroll down to the next woodpecker in West Virginia you’ll see the difference. Red-bellied Woodpeckers do have a red stomach but it is more of a pale red, however it’s 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 other woodpeckers on this list, and are most common Southern West Virginia. 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. In my experience though, Red-headed Woodpeckers are more elusive than others.
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 backs and all white white under parts, 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. Pileated Woodpecker
- Length: 15.8-19.3 in
- Weight: 8.8-12.3 oz
- Wingspan: 26.0-29.5 in
Pileated Woodpeckers are year-round residents throughout West Virginia. They are the largest species of woodpeckers in West Virginia as well as North America. Like other woodpeckers, they readily eat at suet feeders when offered but they can be quite elusive and hard to attract. This bird is one that I am still trying to attract to my own backyard and have yet to see one at my new house.
They like dead and dying trees if you have any on your property, and you can even attract a pair if you put up a nest box. They prefer large trees in mature forests for nesting and are capable of drilling massive holes in them (see pic below). Their primary food is carpenter ants but also eat beetle larvae, termites, other insects, fruits and nuts.
6. Northern Flicker
- Length: 11.0-12.2 in
- Weight: 3.9-5.6 oz
- Wingspan: 16.5-20.1 in
Northern Flickers are very colorful birds found throughout West Virginia 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 insects, berries, sunflower seeds, and thistle.
Even though they find most of 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. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
- Length: 7.1-8.7 in
- Weight: 1.5-1.9 oz
- Wingspan: 13.4-15.8 in
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers aren’t regulars at bird feeders but will sometimes show up at a suet feeder. They are more likely to be seen in tree branches while looking for insects or harvesting sap. Sapsuckers will drill holes into birch and maple trees, stick their bills in, and use their long tongues to take in as much sap as they can.
These woodpeckers are about the size of an American Robin and have mainly a migratory range in West Virginia. They migrate north from southern states into New England, Northern U.S. states, and Canada to breed. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are mostly black with light under bodies, yellow and black chests, and red feathers above and below their beaks.
How to attract woodpeckers to your yard in West Virginia
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!