There are many different species of woodpeckers in North America, and you can find 8 of those woodpeckers in Louisiana. In this article we’ll take a look at each species and touch on where and when you might spot one in Louisiana. At the end of the article I’ll also give you a few tips on how to attract woodpeckers to your yard.
8 species of woodpeckers in Louisiana
The 8 species of woodpeckers in Louisiana are the Pileated Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, and the Northern Flicker.
1. Pileated Woodpecker
Length: 15.8-19.3 in
Weight: 8.8-12.3 oz
Wingspan: 26.0-29.5 in
First up is the Pileated Woodpecker, the largest of all woodpeckers in Louisiana as well as North America. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is the only woodpecker in North America that’s larger, but they are probably be extinct. Pileated Woodpeckers can be found year-round throughout Louisiana.
If you want to spot a Pileated Woodpecker, look in mature forests. They love old, dead trees that has rotting wood. Pileated Woodpeckers will sometimes visit bird feeders, they do like suet, but I’ve found they still aren’t very common. I’ve yet to see one at the suet feeder at my new house but I regularly see Downys, Hairys, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Grab your camera if you do see one, they are very large and its hard to mistake a Pileated for any other type of bird.
2. Red-headed Woodpecker
Length: 7.5-9.1 in
Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz
Wingspan: 16.5 in
Found throughout the entire state of Louisiana, the Red-headed Woodpecker is easily identified by its completely red/crimson head. They will sometimes visit suet feeders, but again are less common some other types of woodpeckers. Aside from suet they will also eat various nuts and fruits, and they are also very skilled at catching insects in mid-flight.
Red-headed Woodpeckers can be quite aggressive and it’s not uncommon for them to take over nests by knocking eggs out or even puncturing them to kill the young. They are one of only four species of woodpeckers that actively store their food in caches for later use. The Red-headed Woodpecker takes it a step further though and will go so far as to cover the food up with bark or wood to better camouflage its stash.
3. Red-bellied Woodpecker
Length: 9.4 in
Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz
Wingspan: 13.0-16.5 in
The Red-bellied Woodpecker lives in all of Louisiana year-round, as well as much of the eastern United States. While they do have red on their heads and their red bellies aren’t extremely red, don’t confuse them with Red-headed Woodpeckers. These medium-sized woodpeckers are more common at feeders than red-heads especially if you are offering suet. They prefer nesting in dead trees and can occasionally be seen drinking nectar from hummingbird feeders.
These are one of the most common types of woodpeckers I see at my feeders. They mostly enjoy the suet feeder but I also see them taking sunflower seeds. They’re fairly large compared to other backyard feeder birds so when they swoop into a feeder most of the time the other birds fly off.
4. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Length: 7.1-8.7 in
Weight: 1.5-1.9 oz
Wingspan: 13.4-15.8 in
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker can be found throughout Louisiana as well as the eastern half of the United States. They have a non-breeding range in the state and migrate north to their breeding grounds in northern states and Canada. A good time to see one would be during the winter months, or late March and early April as they migrate north.
They aren’t common at bird feeders and do in fact eat sap as their primary food source. They drill holes into maple, elm, aspen, and birch trees and collect sap with their long tongues. Aside from sap they also will eat a variety of insects.
5. Downy Woodpecker
Length: 5.5-6.7 in
Weight: 0.7-1.0 oz
Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in
You can find these tiny woodpeckers everywhere in Louisiana all year, since they do not migrate. They are very common throughout almost all of the U.S. and are the smallest species of woodpeckers in North America. They are also very common at bird feeders many times being the first to visit a new feeder.
Downy Woodpeckers love suet but also eat a variety of seeds like sunflower seeds, millet, and peanuts. They’re only about the size of a sparrow and can be identified by their white spots on their backs and white underbellies. Males also will have a red patch on top of their heads.
6. Red-cockaded Woodpecker
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 a few U.S. states, Louisiana being one of them. They’re found year-round in a fairly small area in Northwestern Louisiana, and also some areas of Eastern Louisiana. Most of their habitat was lost due to logging and their populations steeply declined putting them on a red watch list with an estimated 15,000 breeding birds today.
Today they are not commonly seen in the wild and the best chance of spotting one is in a wildlife refuge.
7. Hairy Woodpecker
Length: 7.1-10.2 in
Weight: 1.4-3.4 oz
Wingspan: 13.0-16.1 in
You may be wondering if you’re looking at another Downy Woodpecker in this picture. The answer is no, but they sure do look alike. Like Downy’s, Hairy Woodpeckers are also found pretty much everywhere in Louisiana. These woodpeckers are significantly larger than Downy’s and have a noticeably larger beak.
Other than that they are difficult to tell apart and are very similar in all ways. I have found them to be less common at bird feeders overall.
8. Northern Flicker
Length: 11.0-12.2 in
Weight: 3.9-5.6 oz
Wingspan: 16.5-20.1 in
Northern Flickers are found in some capacity in most of North America, and all of the United States. In Louisiana you’ll find flickers in most of the state all-year since many don’t migrate and they’re quite common. These large woodpeckers are between the size of a Hairy and a Pileated Woodpecker. In my opinion they are among some of the most colorful birds in North America and I love catching a glimpse of one in my yard.
Northern Flickers are different from other woodpeckers in that they usually hunt for their food on the ground and not in trees. they can commonly be seen picking through dirt and leaves looking for insects.
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.