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8 Types of Woodpeckers in Arkansas (Photos)

 Last Reviewed by Jesse Foutch on 01-31-2024

Arkansas is also known as The Natural State because of its diverse natural resources, clear streams, and over 600,000 acres of natural lakes. Being centrally located in the U.S. and having a mild climate allows for a wide variety of wildlife to thrive in the state. This includes many different species of birds, but in this article we’re going to learn about each one of these 8 species of woodpeckers in Arkansas.

There are 8 species of woodpeckers in Arkansas. These species are the Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, and the Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

We’ll go over these species and talk about where and when they can be seen in Arkansas. We’ll also hit on a few fun facts about woodpeckers and show pictures of each species to help you identify them.

Thanks for reading!

1. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Length: 9.4 in
Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz
Wingspan: 13.0 -16.5 in

Red-bellied Woodpeckers feature peachy-red caps and napes with black and white striped backs. These woodpeckers are commonly found in woodlands across Arkansas year-round, perched on the main branches and trunks of trees.

They’re known for venturing from the forest to visit backyard bird feeders as well. Use suet blocks during winter, peanuts, and sometimes sunflower seeds to attract them. Dead trees are also attractive to them for the insects inside.

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker

One of the best ways of finding these birds is to learn their loud, rolling call. They’re very active callers in the spring and summer, so listen close during those seasons.

audio source:

2. Red-headed Woodpecker

red-headed woodpecker

Length: 7.5-9.1 in
Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz
Wingspan: 16.5 in

Red-headed Woodpeckers are found year round throughout Arkansas. Adults have bright red heads, snow colored bodies, and black and white wings making them easily identifiable. Juveniles are less colorful, their plumage is nearly all gray-brown, with white patches on their wings.

Red-headed woodpecker drumming
Red-head woodpecker drumming | image by USFWS Midwest Region via Flickr

These woodpeckers tend to occupy open woods with clear under-stories, pine savannas, and swamps. Due to a reduction of their habitats, their population is declining.

They are unique compared to other woodpeckers. Red-headed Woodpeckers hunt for insects in the air in addition to drilling into wood. They also store extra food like nuts and seeds away in their tree crevices.

3. Downy Woodpecker

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

Downy Woodpeckers are on the smaller end of woodpeckers. Their size ranges from between a sparrow and a robin. Their beaks also appear shorter than most other woodpeckers.

Downy Woodpeckers are found year-round in Arkansas, in open woodlands and forests. They tend to favor deciduous trees, but they can also be spotted in backyard, parks, and other residential areas. They’re very active during spring and summer, hammering into trees and making their characteristic high pitched calls.


During the winter, they frequently join mixed species flocks. This behavior allows them to join forces with other small birds for increased protection and better chances of finding food.

audio source:

4. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

photo by: dfaulder | CC 2.0

Length: 7.1-8.7 in
Weight: 1.5-1.9 oz
Wingspan: 13.4-15.8 in

Non-breeding winter populations of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are found in Arkansas, then they migrate north to their breeding grounds each year in the warmer months. They’re often found in young deciduous forests up to around 6,500 feet in elevation. In winter they spend time in open forests.

Image: Jessica Bolser | USFWS |

They have bold red markings on their foreheads and underneath their bills. Their undersides are mostly white and sometimes yellowish, the rest of their plumage is black and white.

Good indicators of nearby Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are the rows of sap-wells found in trees. These shallow, neatly organized holes are put there by these woodpeckers so that they can drink the sap and any insects that leak out with it.

5. Hairy Woodpecker

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

Hairy Woodpeckers are found year round in Arkansas, but be careful you don’t confuse it for the Downy Woodpecker. Hairy Woodpeckers are larger and with longer bills. They have a squarish head, black and white plumage, and a large white patch that runs down their backsides.

They’re often found on the trunks and main branches of trees in mature forests. They also visit backyard bird feeders stocked with suet or sunflowers seeds. Listen for their distinct whinny, “peek” call, or for their  drumming on drums while they forage.

hairy male versus female

In addition to their distinctive physical features, Hairy Woodpeckers are known for their foraging habits. They primarily feed on insects, especially beetle larvae, found under the bark of trees. This is why you don’t see them at feeders as often as downys. 

This foraging behavior not only nourishes the woodpeckers but also aids in controlling insect populations, benefiting the health of the forest ecosystem. Their presence in both wild and suburban areas highlights their adaptability and the important role they play in their habitats.

audio source:

6. Northern Flicker

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

Northern Flickers stand apart from many of the white and black colored woodpeckers we’ve discussed. They’re fairly large, with a silvery brown appearance and bright markings, red in the west and yellow in the east. Their undersides are speckled with dots and they have crescents and barring throughout the rest of their plumage.

Also unlike other woodpeckers, Northern Flickers are often spotted on the ground digging for beetles and ants, their primary food source.  They reside year-round in Arkansas, in open woods and the edges of forests. When they aren’t on the ground, they’re often perched on branches. Listen for their alarming yells and loud calls.

split screen comparison of yellow shafted and red shafted flicker
Two Northern Flicker Varieties

Northern Flickers are versatile in their nesting choices, often utilizing trees, posts, and even birdhouses. Their adaptability in habitat preference, ranging from forests to suburban areas, reflects their resourcefulness. 

During the breeding season, these woodpeckers are known for their elaborate courtship rituals which include a series of calls and displays. This behavior, coupled with their unique foraging habits, makes Northern Flickers a fascinating species to observe for both casual birdwatchers and ornithologists alike.

7. Pileated Woodpecker

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

Pileated Woodpeckers are large, crow-sized birds with long beaks and red, triangular crests on their heads. Their bodies are mostly black, with white stripes on their heads and white feathers on the undersides of their wings.

pileated feeding each other
Pileated woodpeckers feeding each other on wooden fence

Find these woodpeckers year round throughout Arkansas, though they aren’t as commonly seen as some of the other Arkansas woodpeckers in this list. Look for them in mature forests that have plenty of dead trees and downed wood. Also keep an eye out for excavations and signature rectangular holes in soft, rotten wood for a sign that these birds are nearby.

Listen for their loud drumming and piercing, whinny-like calls for a good chance at spotting them. Keeping suet in your backyard bird feeder is another way to attract them.

8. Red-cockaded Woodpecker

photo by: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast | CC 2.0

Length: 7.9-9.1 in 
Weight: 1.5-1.8 oz 
Wingspan: 14.2 in

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers have a very limited range and are only found in certain areas of the United States, including southwest and central Arkansas, where they reside throughout the year.

This species has experienced a steep decline in population, primarily due to the loss of their habitat from extensive logging, placing them on a conservation watch list with an estimated 15,000 breeding birds remaining.

Photo by: Dominic Sherony | CC BY-SA 2.0

In their preferred habitat of mature pine forests in the southeastern United States, these woodpeckers are known for their unique nesting behavior. They specifically choose pine trees softened by red-heart fungus to skillfully excavate cavities.

This not only showcases their adaptation to their environment but also aids in sustaining biodiversity by providing vital nesting sites for other species. The significant reduction in their numbers underscores the importance of these woodpeckers in maintaining the ecological balance of their habitat.