Even though it’s one of the smallest states, Connecticut still has plenty of beautiful wildlife. the state has a wide variety of birds, and more specifically, several different species of woodpeckers. For this article we’re going to learn about the 7 species of Woodpeckers in Connecticut, and even give a few tips on how and when to spot them in the state.
Species of Woodpeckers in Connecticut
The 7 Species of woodpecker in Connecticut are Pileated Woodpeckers, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Yellow-bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, and Northern Flickers.
Not all of these species are found year-round in CT, but they all occur regularly at certain times of the year.
1. Pileated Woodpecker
Length: 15.8-19.3 in
Weight: 8.8-12.3 oz
Wingspan: 26.0-29.5 in
Pileated Woodpeckers have a few key characteristics that make them easily identifiable. They are the largest woodpeckers in North America, with large, flaming-red crests at the tops of their heads and bold white stripes down the sides of their necks.
These woodpeckers are often heard before they are seen, either drumming into trees with their long, chisel-like bills, or calling with their loud, high-pitched whinny.
Find Pileated Woodpeckers year-round in Northern Connecticut, in forests that have plenty of tall trees and downed, rotting logs. Unique, rectangular shaped holes in wood are a distinct give away for these birds, indicating that they may be in the area.
To get at carpenter ants and other insects, Pileated Woodpeckers will even go as far as tearing apart stumps and other large sections of dead wood. Look for them at all heights of the forest — often foraging at the base of trees. In addition to insects they also eat wild fruit, berries, and nuts.
2. Red-Headed Woodpecker
Length: 7.5-9.1 in
Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz
Wingspan: 16.5 in
Red-headed Woodpeckers are primarily found in the south eastern and central portions of America, but a breeding population can be found in part of Connecticut during the spring and summer.
They’re medium-sized birds with short tails, strong bills, and bright red heads. The rest of their striking coloration shows black on their upper parts with contrasting, bright white bellies and half black, half white wings.
These woodpeckers tend to occur in small colonies. They favor woodlands with clearings, the edges of forests, and other semi-open areas. Listen for deep tapping on trees, or for their sharp “wee-ah” calls to locate them.
Red-headed Woodpeckers are one of the most omnivorous woodpeckers species. In addition to foraging in trees, they will eagerly take advantage of other food sources such as flying insects, wild fruits, nuts, seeds, and sometimes even small rodents and other birds’ eggs.
3. Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Length: 9.4 in
Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz
Wingspan: 13.0-16.5 in
Red-bellied Woodpeckers are found year-round in Connecticut, with the state being at the northern edge of this specie’s range. They tend to be somewhat more common than Red-headed Woodpeckers, and are sometimes confused for this species due to also having red markings on their heads. The rest of their plumage is pale overall, with bold, black and white barring on their backs.
Red-bellied woodpeckers are fairly common in woodlands, groves, and forests — especially those near bodies of water. They’re adaptable birds, too, and have been spotted in urban settings like parks and suburbs. Learning the rolling calls of these woodpeckers is one of the best ways to find them. During the spring and summer they call loudly and frequently, offering a good viewing opportunity.
4. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
Length: 7.1-8.7 in
Weight: 1.5-1.9 oz
Wingspan: 13.4-15.8 in
Though they’re called “yellow-bellied,” Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers aren’t really all that yellow. They may have some yellowish markings on their pale undersides, but their plumage is mostly black and white, with bright red foreheads an white stripes down the sides of their necks.
They’re small, robin-sized woodpeckers with short bills and long wings. Sometimes they hold their feathers up to a point on the tops of their heads, giving them an alert expression.
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are mostly migratory visitors just passing through Connecticut, though you might find a few birds sticking around to breed in the spring and summer in Northern Connecticut. They stick to hardwood and coniferous forests, and are particularly fond of aspens. They will frequently nest in cavities in groves of these trees.
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are known for drilling tiny, neatly spaced rows of sap wells. Look for these telltale signs next time you’re out birding, you might just be in Yellow-bellied Sapsucker territory.
5. Downy Woodpecker
Length: 5.5-6.7 in
Weight: 0.7-1.0 oz
Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in
Downy Woodpeckers live year-round in Connecticut, and are commonly found in a range of habitats including open woodlands, forest edges, urban parks, and even backyards. They’re opportunistic foragers. They drill into trees like most woodpeckers in addition to foraging in tall grass and weeds, and also backyard feeders.
In fact, Downy Woodpeckers are among the most likely woodpecker species to visit feeders. Downy are the smallest woodpecker species in Connecticut as well as North America. In the winter they meet up with other flocks of small birds, such as chickadees and nuthatches to stick out the cold in larger numbers.
These woodpeckers are often confused for Hairy Woodpeckers, since their black and white coloration is nearly identical. However, Downy Woodpeckers are much smaller, with proportionately shorter bills. They also have black spots on their white tail feathers, which the Hairy Woodpecker lacks. Listening for the high-pitched “pik” of the Downy Woodpecker is another way to tell them apart.
6. Hairy Woodpecker
Length: 7.1-10.2 in
Weight: 1.4-3.4 oz
Wingspan: 13.0-16.1 in
The Hairy Woodpecker is the larger look-alike to the Downy Woodpecker. The main differences between these two birds are their size and bill length, with the Hairy Woodpecker’s bill being significantly longer.
Hairy Woodpeckers tend to stick to trees for foraging and are frequently seen perched on the sides of trees or around the trunks. They require taller trees and more forested areas than Downy Woodpeckers, and are less likely to appear at backyard feeders — though they will visit on occasion.
Hairy Woodpeckers are also found year-round in Connecticut. They take advantage of the holes left by larger Pileated Woodpeckers, scoping them out for any insects left behind. They’ll also visit holes created by sapsuckers to finish off any remaining sap. These woodpeckers rely on wood-boring insects, and excavate a lot compared to other woodpeckers of the same size.
7. Northern Flicker
Length: 11.0-12.2 in
Weight: 3.9-5.6 oz
Wingspan: 16.5-20.1 in
Northern Flickers have a year-round range in all of Connecticut. They stand out from the other species due to the gray-brown plumage that covers most of their bodies. They also have plenty of dark markings on their undersides as well as brightly colored tail feathers. These markings differ between subspecies, yellow for birds in the east and red for those in the west. Northern Flickers are very colorful birds.
Northern Flickers are large woodpeckers with slim, round heads. Unlike most woodpeckers, they’re often spotted on the ground where they forage for ants and other insects with their long, slightly curved bills. When they do spend time in trees, it’s often perched vertically on branches rather than on the sides of trees.
How to attract woodpeckersFor 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.