With an area of over 82,277 square miles made up largely of vast plains, Kansas’ central location and mild climate allows for a wide variety of wildlife to thrive in the state of Kansas. This includes many different species of birds, but in this article we’re going to learn about the 8 species of woodpeckers found in Kansas.
We’ll take a close look at these species and talk about where and when they can be seen in Kansas. We’ll also hit on a few fun facts about woodpeckers and see pictures of each species, to help you identify them.
The 8 species of woodpeckers in Kansas are the Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker. Let’s learn about them!
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 throughout the state of Kansas in woodlands and backyards 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.
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.
2. 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 East Kansas, but only during the breeding season in the western half of the state. Adults have bright red heads, snow colored bodies, and black and white wings making them easily identifiable. Juveniles are less colorful, they’re plumage is nearly all gray-brown, with white patches on their wings.
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 Kansas, 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.
4. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Length: 7.1-8.7 in
Weight: 1.5-1.9 oz
Wingspan: 13.4-15.8 in
A non-breeding winter populations of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are found in Kansas, 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.
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 much of Kansas, 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.
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 west.
Their undersides are speckled with dots and they have crescents and barring throughout the rest of their plumage. They’re among the most colorful birds in North America.
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 Kansas, 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.
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.
Find these woodpeckers year round in Southeast Kansas only, they aren’t as commonly seen as some of the other 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. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Length: 6.3-7.1 in
Weight: 0.7-1.7 oz
Wingspan: 13.0 in
Look for Ladder-backed Woodpeckers from late January to March when they are pairing up for breeding and more active. Ladder-backed Woodpeckers are found only in the Southwestern corner of Kansas.
They aren’t commonly seen at suet feeders but they will readily eat mealworms, peanut butter, and black oil sunflower seeds when offered.
They commonly nest in dead trees, so if you want to attract a pair leave those dead trees in your yard alone. Ladder-backed Woodpeckers were once known as “Cactus Woodpeckers” because they often prefer living in deserts and thorn forests where cacti are present.
Jesse has been feeding birds in his backyard and bird watching across the country for years. He loves learning about the different species and sharing his knowledge and experiences on this website.