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Woodpeckers in Maine (7 Species With Pictures)

If you’ve ever wandered about the species of woodpeckers in Maine, then you’re in luck. In this article we’re talking Maine woodpeckers. We’ll look at some pictures and learn some fun facts for the next time you see or hear one of these amazing birds!

You may rarely get a different wandering migrant species, but the 7 most common species of woodpeckers in Maine are the Downy, Hairy, Northern Flicker, Pileated, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Three-toed, and the Black-backed Woodpecker. 

The state of Maine | image: TUBS | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Let’s take a closer look at each of these species found in Maine.

7 Types of Woodpecker in Maine

Did you know?
Woodpeckers have strong bills that are used to chisel, peck, and pull away bark and wood in search of insect prey, to create cavities in trees for nesting, and to communicate with other members of the species.

1. Downy Woodpecker


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

The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest and most common of woodpeckers in Maine, as it can be found nearly anywhere trees are present. It’s named for the soft texture on its back, and they’re often affectionately called “downies” by locals.

They have a very distinctive black and white striping pattern down the center of their back with broad horizontal bars on their wings. Males and females have slightly different patterns, as the males also have a bright red dot on the backs of their heads.

This woodpecker spends most of its time clinging to the trunks and branches of trees. Like most woodpeckers, they’ve evolved zygodactyl feet, meaning they have two toes that face forwards and two toes that face back, unlike most species of bird that have three forward and one back.

This allows them to cling to the tree better in search of insects. Their smaller size comes in handy when foraging, as they’re able to crawl all the way out to the tips of smaller branches that other woodpeckers are too heavy to access.

2. Hairy Woodpecker

Image: JackBulmer |

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

The Hairy Woodpecker resembles the Downy Woodpecker with its black and white stripe and red dot, as well as also being seen throughout Maine, but they’re two distinctive species! The hairy’s beak is larger than the Downy’s, and has all-white outer tail feathers as well.

It’s less common than the Downy as well, preferring mature forests with old tree growth. It mostly consumes insects, but will include plant matter in its diet as well.

Field guides can point out the field marks to distinguish hard to tell apart birds, such as the Downy (left) and Hairy (right) Woodpecker.

This woodpecker is known for occasionally following the sounds of Pileated Woodpeckers within the same region in search of easy food. As the Pileated moves on, the Hairy Woodpecker will investigate the deep holes and take any insects that may have been missed.

They’ll also follow the routes of Sapsuckers, as they’ve been known to drink sap leaking from the wells left in the bark. It’s believed they have a taste for sweet things, as they’ve also been seen pecking into sugar cane for the juice.

3. Northern Flicker


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

The Northern Flicker is the only woodpecker in Maine with gray-brown plumage rather than the traditional black and white. When in flight, its wings have been known to flash yellow from underneath. It lives primarily in woodlands, wetlands, and many built-up areas, making it a common sight at bird feeders throughout the state.

This bird eats insects and other invertebrates, but will also commonly consume seeds and berries when they’re available. This is the most common species to see vertically walking up a tree trunk.

This is thanks to its zygodactyl feet, and it also has stiff, pointed tail feathers that protrude at just the right angle to serve as a balance prop. The Northern Flicker has a breeding range in Maine, so look for them in the Spring when they’re most active. 

4. Pileated Woodpecker

Image: 272447 |

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

The Pileated Woodpecker is most likely the species people think of when you say “woodpecker”. This crow-sized bird has a bright red crest and a striking black body with white patches on the wings, making it a treat to see no matter how common!

It’s obvious when you have a Pileated Woodpecker nearby. As the largest woodpeckers in Maine and in North America, they leave distinctive rectangular holes in the trees it excavates in search of carpenter ants – their primary source of food.

Unlike the common misconception that they hammer into live trees in search of insects, this woodpecker much prefers dead and softer wood when searching for ant nests, going so far as to tear apart stumps and big sections of fallen logs. This woodpecker also has a distinctive drumming sound that slows down, speeds up, and slows down again.

It can be found in the conifer forests of Maine, but has slowly been moving in closer to parks and woodlots around the edges of large cities as humans have been encroaching on its habitat. Thankfully, its numbers are gradually increasing, although it’s still threatened by the clearing of forests and the use of pesticides.

Did you know?
Woodpeckers are especially interesting because they have a reinforced, shock-absorbing skull that cushions the shock of repeated blows, as well as a long, barbed tongue used to spear and extract insects.

5. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Image: Jessica Bolser | USFWS |

Scientific name: Sphyrapicus varius
Length: 7.1-8.7 in
Weight: 1.5-1.9 oz
Wingspan: 13.4-15.8 in

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker can be seen throughout Maine during the breeding season only. It’s considered to be one of the more vocal woodpeckers, as it can become incredibly noisy in the spring with cat-like calls and staccato drumming.

The Sapsucker, as the name suggests, drills tiny holes in tree bark in neatly spaced rows, and then returns to them periodically to eat the sap that oozes out. This sap also serves as an attractor for many insect species such as ants for them to eat. They do still glean insects from tree trunks in a more “woodpecker” fashion, but aren’t restricted to it.

6. American Three-toed Woodpecker

image: Ron Knight | Flickr | CC 2.0

Scientific name: Picoides dorsalis
Length: 8.3-9.1 in
Weight: 1.6-2.4 oz
Wingspan: 14.6-15.3 in

In the most Northwestern parts of Maine, you may come across a Three-toed Woodpecker. They aren’t very common, and their small size and inconspicuous nature don’t make them very easy to find.

American Three-toed Woodpeckers often spend a long time perched on a single tree, either sitting very still or flaking off the bark. Unlike most woodpeckers, these woodpecker don’t rely on drilling or excavating wood and instead peel the bark off with their bills.

American Three-toed Woodpeckers are about the size of an American Robin, in between the size of a Downy and Hairy Woodpecker. Their bills are fairly short, but are strong and sturdy to help them pick off bark. They’re mostly black and white, with fine black barring on their white undersides. Males have a dull yellow patch on their foreheads. 

7. Black-backed Woodpecker

Photo Credit: Mike Laycock, National Park Service | CC 2.0

Scientific name: Picoides arcticus
Length: 9.1 in
Weight: 2.1-3.1 oz
Wingspan: 15.8-16.5 in

Black-backed Woodpeckers are are found mostly in Northern Maine. These woodpeckers are usually the dominate species in places where both species of woodpeckers occur and will often drive away American Three-toed Woodpeckers from their territories.

Black-backed Woodpeckers are medium-sized birds, around the same size as a Hairy Woodpecker. Their coloration is close to the American Three-toed Woodpecker’s, but with less barring on the back and wings. The solid black plumage on their backs helps them blend into charred trees in forests where wildfires had occurred.

Black-backed Woodpeckers flock to these burned areas to feast on the larvae of wood-boring beetles and other insects, and will occupy these territories for years. 

How to attract woodpeckers

For 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.