8 Species Of Woodpeckers In Virginia

Woodpeckers In Virginia

Woodpeckers in Virginia are a fascinating group of birds that add vibrancy to the state’s diverse avian population. 

With their distinctive drumming sounds echoing through the forests, woodpeckers play crucial roles in the ecosystem. 

From the small Downy Woodpecker to the majestic Pileated Woodpecker, Virginia is home to a diverse array of woodpecker species that are fascinating, this woodpecker can often be spotted hammering away at tree trunks in search of insects.

These beautiful woodpeckers serve as more than just ornamental additions to our natural surroundings.

Join us in this blog post we will discover some super woodpeckers in Virginia and also give you some tips to attract them into your backyard.

How do I identify woodpeckers in Virginia?

Species of Woodpeckers in Virginia

Identifying Woodpeckers can be quite elusive, but with a keen eye and some knowledge, you’ll be able to identify these fascinating birds. One way to identify this fascinating bird is by its distinctive behavior. 

Woodpeckers are known for their habit of tapping on trees, creating a rhythmic and unmistakable sound. This drumming behavior serves multiple purposes, including staking out territory, attracting mates, and finding food.

Secondly, observe their distinctive coloring – most woodpeckers have black and white plumage that helps them blend in with tree trunks. However, some species may display vibrant reds or yellows on their heads or bellies.

Another clue to identifying a woodpecker is its unique physical characteristics. These birds have strong bills specifically adapted for drilling holes in trees to extract insects as their primary source of food.

There are around 200 different species of woodpeckers found across the world, so keep all the main characteristics in mind, which will help you to identify woodpeckers.

Lewis’s Woodpecker

Lewis’s Woodpecker
  • Length: 10-11 inches
  • Weight: 3-4 ounces
  • Wingspan: 19 inches

One of the lesser-known woodpeckers in Virginia is the stunning Lewis’s Woodpecker. With its unique appearance and behavior, this bird captures the attention of anyone.

While not commonly seen in the area, this species stands out among other woodpeckers with its unique appearance and behavior.

Unlike many woodpeckers that have black and white coloration, the Lewis’s Woodpecker sports a striking mix of iridescent greenish-black upperparts and vibrant pink-red underparts.

This beautiful bird stands out with its unique appearance, measuring around 10-11 inches in length and weighing an average of 3-4 ounces. 

Despite its relatively small size, the Lewis’s Woodpecker boasts an impressive wingspan that stretches up to 19 inches.

Sadly, the stunning woodpeckers in Virginia are facing an alarming decline in numbers due to the loss of their habitat caused by urban development and deforestation.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker
  • Length: 11.0-14.2 in
  • Weight: 3.9-5.6 oz
  • Wingspan: 17.5-21 in

The Northern Flicker is one of the most charismatic woodpeckers in Virginia, with its distinctive markings and energetic behavior. 

Their striking combination of colors – brown bodies with black bars on the back and a prominent white rump patch – creates a visually appealing contrast.

These birds can range from 11 to 14 inches in length, making them similar in size to a crow. Their impressive wingspan, measuring between 17 and 21 inches across, allows them to gracefully maneuver in search of food.

Not only their appearance that makes Northern Flickers fascinating; their behaviors are equally intriguing, unlike other woodpecker species that primarily excavate trees looking for insects, Northern Flickers have adapted to also feed on the ground for insects like ants and beetles.

From its eye-catching plumage to its tapping sounds against tree trunks, the Northern Flicker never fails to capture our attention.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker
  • Length: 6-7 in
  • Weight: 0.7-1.2 ounces.
  • Wingspan: 10-12 inches.

Woodpeckers in Virginia are a common sight, but one species that truly captures the imagination is the Downy Woodpecker.

With its striking black and white plumage and tiny size, this woodpecker is often mistaken for its larger relative, the Hairy Woodpecker.

Most woodpeckers use their strong beaks to drum on tree trunks in search of insects the Downy has a peculiar preference for smaller branches and twigs.

 It measures only about 6-7 inches in length weighs merely 0.7-1.2 ounces, and boasts a wingspan of approximately 10-12 inches.

This extraordinary bird can still powerfully drum on trees with its sharp beak, creating a rhythmic beat that echoes through the forest.

Although these charismatic birds are widespread across North America, their presence is particularly significant in Virginia due to their integral role in maintaining ecosystem balance.

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker
  • Length: 9-10 inches
  • Weight: 2.8 to 3.4 ounces
  • Wingspan: 13.0-16.1 in

The hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus) is a fascinating bird that can be found in the lush forests of Virginia. The Hairy Woodpecker measures between 9 to 10 inches in length and weighs around 2.8 to 3.4 ounces and has a wingspan of 13-16 inches, making it slightly larger than its close relative, the Downy Woodpecker.

The most remarkable feature of the Hairy Woodpecker is not its hair-like feathers but rather its long bill, which it uses efficiently to search for food and drum on tree trunks.

This bird’s diet primarily consists of insects like beetles and ants but they also feed on nuts and fruits during certain times of the year.

One interesting fact about the hairy woodpecker is its impressive drumming ability. Using their chisel-like bills, they create loud rhythmic beats on tree trunks.

Woodpeckers play an integral role in maintaining healthy forest ecosystems by controlling insect populations and creating nesting cavities for other birds.

However, they face various threats today due to habitat loss caused by deforestation and urbanization. Conservation efforts need to focus on preserving woodland areas within Virginia.

Red-Headed Woodpecker

Red-Headed Woodpecker
  • Length: 7.5-9.1 in
  • Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz
  • Wingspan: 16 -17 inches.

The Red-Headed Woodpecker is a striking species that can be found in Virginia and many other parts of North America. These birds display a vibrant combination of colors, with their bold red heads and black and white bodies.

This medium-sized woodpecker typically measures around 7 to 9 inches in length, weighing 2 to 3 ounces, with a wingspan of about 16 to 17 inches.

They possess strong bills that allow them to excavate trunk holes quickly and efficiently, helping them find food like insects, berries, nuts, and even small lizards or tree frogs.

Interestingly, while many woodpeckers rely heavily on drumming sounds for communication purposes, the Red-Headed Woodpecker tends to be relatively quiet.

The populations of these beautiful birds have been declining drastically over the years due to habitat loss caused by deforestation and urbanization. Conservation efforts are crucial to protect not only the Red-Headed Woodpeckers but also many other species

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
  • Length: 7.1-8.7 inches
  • Weight: 1.5-2 ounce
  • Wingspan: 13.4-16  inches

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker woodpeckers, commonly found in Virginia’s lush forests, possess a striking appearance that sets them apart from their avian counterparts.

With vibrant yellow bellies and intricate black and white markings on their wings, these woodpeckers are a true delight for bird enthusiasts and nature lovers.

These stunning birds measure around 7–8 inches long, weigh about 1.5–2 ounces on average, and their wingspan ranges between 13-16 inches.

Other woodpecker species tend to stick to drumming on tree trunks or hunting for insects in deadwood, Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers have evolved an ingenious feeding technique that sets them apart.

Unlike their counterparts, these colorful woodpeckers create small wells in tree bark known as sapwells.

The presence of Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers in Virginia’s forests reflects a delicate balance between nature’s interconnectedness and plays a significant role in maintaining ecosystem health.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker
  • Length: 15.8-19.3 in
  • Weight: 8.8-12.3 oz
  • Wingspan: 26.0-30  in

One of the most iconic and largest woodpeckers you can spot in Virginia is the Pileated Woodpecker.

The Pileated Woodpecker measures around 16 to 19 inches long, weighing about 8.8-12.3 ounces making it one of the largest woodpeckers in North America. Its wingspan reaches an impressive 26 to 30 inches, allowing for powerful and precise flight.

They are known for their strong wingbeats and undulating flight patterns, gliding effortlessly through the forest canopy.

These woodpeckers are also known for their powerful drumming sounds, which can be heard resonating through the trees during mating season.

By excavating large rectangular holes in decaying trees, they create nesting cavities for various animal species such as owls, bats, and small mammals.

Pileated Woodpeckers play a crucial role in maintaining forest ecosystems.

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker
  • Length: 7.9-9.1 in
  • Weight: 1.5-1.8 oz
  • Wingspan: 14.2 in

Woodpeckers in Virginia are fortunate to be home to various species, and one of the most striking is the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis). Known for its distinct black-and-white plumage with a bold red streak on its head.

One interesting fact about these woodpeckers is that they excavate cavities in live pine trees rather than dead ones. This drilling technique helps create openings for sap flow which attracts insects – a primary food source for these birds.

The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker is a small bird measuring around 7-9 inches in length, weighing merely 1-2 ounces, and has an  impressive wingspan reaching up to 16-17 inches wide,

Being a federally threatened species, their population has been declining steadily due to habitat loss and degradation. With only a few hundred individuals remaining in the state.

However, efforts are being made in Virginia and across the southeastern United States to protect and restore suitable habitat areas for this endangered species.


Woodpeckers in Virginia are not just ordinary birds; they are percussionists of the wildlife world. They are known for their distinctive drumming behavior, these birds create sounds that reverberate through the forests.

Woodpecker drumming serves multiple purposes beyond making noise this drumming behavior has two main functions: signaling territory and attracting mates.

So next time you hear the rat-a-tat-tat echoing through the trees, remember that it’s more than just a random noise – it’s nature’s version of a love song.

The search for food is another intriguing aspect of woodpecker behavior.

These birds are known to engage in various charades to find their next meal. One technique involves drilling holes into tree trunks using their sharp beaks, revealing hidden insects that become easy prey.

However, despite their unique behaviors and adaptability, woodpecker populations are facing threats that put them at risk of decline. Now let’s move on to discuss some frequently asked questions about species of woodpeckers in Virginia.

What attracts woodpeckers to your house?

Woodpeckers are fascinating creatures that can be both a joy and a nuisance to have around your house. If you live in Virginia or any wooded area, you may have noticed these birds drumming away on trees or even on the walls of your home. So, what attracts woodpeckers to your house?

One possible reason is the search for food. Woodpeckers have a diet mainly consisting of insects found within tree bark, such as beetles and ants. 

If your house has wooden siding or trim that is infested with insects, it becomes an irresistible buffet for hungry woodpeckers.

Another possible attraction is nesting opportunities. Woodpeckers build their nests by excavating cavities in tree trunks. However, they may also choose man-made structures such as wooden houses or utility poles if suitable trees are scarce.

One more thing that can attract woodpeckers to your house is the presence of food sources like bird feeders. These feeders often provide easy access to nuts, seeds, and suet—all highly appealing to hungry woodpeckers year-round.

What months are woodpeckers most active?

In Virginia, woodpeckers are most active during the months of April to August. This period coincides with their breeding season when they vigorously drum on trees to establish territories and attract mates. 

The sound of a woodpecker’s drilling can be heard resonating through the forests, serving as a declaration of dominance and a means of communication between individuals. 

During this time of year, woodpeckers are busy constructing nests and preparing for breeding season. The abundance of insects in warmer months ensures a steady food supply for both adults and growing chicks.

Beyond the familiar sight of them excavating holes for nesting or foraging purposes, you may witness courtship rituals that involve extravagant displays like bill tapping or wing-flashing.

Moreover, beyond mere functionality, there is an added charm to witnessing these birds in action during springtime. Their vibrant plumage atop trees is like nature’s artwork coming alive after winter’s hibernation.

So, keep an eye out during this time frame if you’re eager to catch a glimpse of nature’s drummers in action.

Is it good to have woodpeckers in your yard?

Having woodpeckers in your yard can be both a blessing and a curse. These fascinating creatures have unique behaviors that can be a delight to observe.

They are known for their drumming, which is often used for communication and attracting mates.

Their drumming can sometimes cause damage to trees or even homes as they search for insects underneath the bark or create nesting sites.

In Virginia, the presence of these birds is often seen as a sign of vitality and natural balance. 

To strike a balance between enjoying woodpecker sightings and minimizing any negative effects, consider introducing bird feeders with suet specifically designed for woodpeckers into your yard.

Their ability to control insect populations offers significant ecological benefits, but their potential harm to trees cannot be ignored.

In conclusion, having woodpeckers in your Virginia yard presents both positive and negative aspects. 

Final Words

In conclusion, woodpeckers in Virginia play a vital role in maintaining the health and balance of their ecosystems.

 With their unique adaptations and behaviors, they contribute to forest regeneration and insect control.

However, these fascinating birds face several threats including habitat loss and climate change. It is crucial for us to take action to protect their habitats and ensure their survival.

By Supporting conservation efforts, we can help preserve the natural beauty of Virginia’s forests and ensure future generations can continue to enjoy the presence of these remarkable woodpeckers.

You can also read our other article about birds in Virginia.

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