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8 Amazing Woodpeckers in Michigan (Pictures)

 Updated by Melanie Cruff on 03-19-2024

There are over 300 species of woodpeckers in the world, about 22 of which are found in the United States. Of those 22 species I’ve found that there are 8 species of woodpeckers in Michigan. Of these 8 species, several are year-round residents to Michigan while others just live there part time.

The 8 species of woodpeckers found in Michigan are the Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and the Black-backed Woodpecker.

In this article we’re going to talk about all 8 of these species of woodpeckers in Michigan. For each species we’ll have a picture to help you identify it, a bit about its size, a brief description with some fun facts, as well as where and how they can be found in the state of Michigan.

At the end we’ll give you some tips to attract woodpeckers to your yard.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!

1. Downy Woodpecker

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

Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest of all woodpeckers in North America and can be found in Michigan all year throughout the whole state. They are very common at feeders and easily attracted with suet, peanuts, mixed seed, or black sunflower seed.

Male Downy excavating nest hole | image by Shiva Shenoy via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Whenever I put up a new feeder in my yard Downys are always among the first to visit it along with chickadees and titmice. They do not migrate and are also very common in the winter time.

Aside from being frequent visitors at bird feeders they also will hammer away at trees looking for insect larvae or feed on berries and acorns. It is not unusual to catch a Downy Woodpecker drinking nectar from a hummingbird feeder. Downy Woodpeckers prefer nesting in dead trees or dead branches on live trees.


2. Hairy Woodpecker

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

Next up is the Hairy Woodpecker who looks strikingly similar to the Downy, they can be downright difficult to tell apart except fro the larger size of the Hairy. See the image below that shows them side by side.

The Downy is on the left and the Hairy is on the right. The Downy shot is a bit closer up so the size difference is hard to gauge, but the Hairy Woodpecker is noticeably larger and has a longer beak.

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

The Hairy Woodpecker is also a year-round resident to Michigan and the majority of the United States. They are very commonly seen at bird feeders and eat all of the same things as their little brother the Downy. It’s quite possible you’ve seen them both and just assumed they were the same species.


3. Red-bellied Woodpecker

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

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are common throughout Michigan year round. They are significantly larger than Downy Woodpeckers and very similar in size to Hairy Woodpeckers. They can also be seen frequenting bird feeders, especially suet feeders.

red bellied on log
Red-bellied woodpecker on a rotted log

At first glance you notice their red heads but resist the temptation to call them Red-headed Woodpeckers, once you scroll down to the next woodpecker in Michigan you’ll see the difference.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers do have a red stomach but it is more of a pale red, and is often unnoticeable when they are up against a tree or feeder. Instead look for their black and white barred wings and red mohawk down their neck to identify them.


4. Red-headed Woodpecker

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

Red-headed Woodpeckers are less common at bird feeders than the first 3 on this list of woodpeckers in Michigan and have a mostly breeding-only range in the state.

In southern Michigan they have a “winter and breeding” range but are still common in these areas. They can sometimes be seen visiting bird feeders and then darting to a tree where they will stash the tasty treats in holes or bark for another day.

Red-headed Woodpeckers feed mostly on insects like beetles, seeds, and berries. They are also considered to be among the most skilled flycatchers when it comes to woodpeckers and will commonly store live insects that they catch in tree bark for later.

You can recognize them by their bright red heads with black and white bodies, they are quite unmistakable. Their population has been on the decline for sometime and they are becoming more and more rare to see in some places.


5. Pileated Woodpecker

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

Pileated Woodpeckers are year-round residents to most of the state of Michigan, but less common in the southeastern part of the state. Aside from the likely extinct ivory-billed woodpecker, they are the largest species of woodpeckers in Michigan as well as North America.

Like other woodpeckers they readily eat at suet feeders when offered but they can be quite elusive and hard to attract. This bird is one that is always a rare treat to see in my yard.

They like dead and dying trees if you have any on your property and you can even attract a pair if you put up a nest box. They prefer large trees in mature forests for nesting and are capable of drilling massive holes in them (see pic below). Their primary food is carpenter ants but also eat beetle larvae, termites, other insects, fruits and nuts.

pileated woodpecker baby in nest
credit: Chris Waits | CC 2.0

6. Northern Flicker

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

Northern Flickers are very colorful birds found throughout Michigan that frequent backyards. While they do occasionally visit feeders, they mostly eat ants from the ground by picking through leaves and dirt and snatching them with their long tongues. Aside from the ants they will eat other invertebrates as well as berries, sunflower seeds, and thistle.

northern flicker yellow shafted 1200
northern flicker

Even though they find their food on the ground, they do drum on trees often as a form of communication. They prefer nesting in old and rotting trees like most other woodpeckers.

Northern Flickers are identified by their spotted underbellies, black bibs, red on the back of their necks, and yellow on their tails. They are fairly large in size, noticeably bigger than a hairy woodpecker but much smaller than a Pileated Woodpecker.


7. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

photo by: dfaulder | CC 2.0

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

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers aren’t regulars at bird feeders but will sometimes show up at a suet feeder. They are more likely to be seen in tree branches while looking for insects or harvesting sap.

Sapsuckers will drill holes into birch and maple trees, stick their bills in, and use their long tongues to take in as much sap as they can.

Yellow bellied-sapsucker on a tree bark
Yellow bellied-sapsucker on a tree bark | Image by iTop Loveliness from Pixabay

These woodpeckers are about the size of an American Robin and have a breeding population in northern and upper Michigan. In the southern portion of the state they have a migration only range but may still be seen during migration times.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are mostly black with light under bodies, yellow and black chests, and red feathers above and below their beaks.


8. Black-backed Woodpecker

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

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

Last on this list of woodpeckers in Michigan is the Black-backed Woodpecker who is only found in the northern most parts of the state. They have a year-round range in most of upper Michigan and small pocket near the shores of Lake Michigan at the northern tip of the state. They are also robin-sized and mostly black with white underbellies, males have a yellow crown on their heads.

Black-backed Woodpeckers feed primarily on wood-boring beetle larvae that they bore out of trees. They are naturally attracted to burnt forests so if you’d like to spot on of these woodpeckers finding such a forest may be your best bet.

They will excavate a new hole each time they are ready to nest. This helps create nesting opportunities for all of the birds that must find used nest holes like chickadees, nuthatches, bluebirds, and owls.

15 thoughts on “8 Amazing Woodpeckers in Michigan (Pictures)”

  1. Hi! Just wanted to let you know that the Red Bellied is in the Upper Peninsula. I am not sure why this is disputed, but then same misinformation is also found in Audubon. I live in Iron County and several of them eat at my feeders year round.

    Reply
    • Thank you for the first-hand account Vicky! I went over to ebird to see what kind of sightings there were, and other people are seeing what you are seeing all over the Upper Peninsula. Curious that the major players in bird research haven’t updated that information. Perhaps it’s a relatively new phenomenon and they have expanded their range in recent years. I updated our wording in that section to include the whole state, thank you for helping us be as accurate as possible!

      Reply
  2. Today (5/5/20) , for the first time since 2016, I saw a red headed woodpecker at my home feeder in northern Mecosta county.

    Reply
  3. Today we had two what I believe are Downy woodpeckers on the suet block. However there was no red flash on the back of the head. Would that indicate a young or baby bird? Ta MO . Metamora, MI

    Reply
  4. I was lucky enough to put up feeders for my first time (during the pandemic) and was able to have many many sightings of Downy, Hairy Woodpeckers, multiple sightings of Red-bellied and occasional sightings of a Red-headed Woodpeckers. I’m not sure I would have been able to identify the others. Our home is near many old dead huge oak trees and black walnut trees. This was the coolest thing I’ve ever got to watch up close.
    Livingston County, MI 9/17/2020

    Reply
  5. Edwardsburg mi eagle lake, male and female pileated more and more often along with Bald eagles adults and juvenile. Many wonderful things to have around here…

    Reply
  6. There are Downy Woodpeckers at my feeder year round. Today is the first time I’ve seen a Red Bellied Woodpecker at my suet feeder since I moved to southern Kent County last year. So very exciting!!!

    Reply
  7. in Casnovia , Mi.
    we have seen Hairy. Downy, Red Bellied, on a regular basis and occasionally the piliated stops by.

    Reply
  8. I have a Red-Bellied Woodpecker that lives in my front yard on an old 70 year old Maple Tree. I hear him everyday. Well not sure if it is a him or a her, or if there is more than one, lol, but they sure do make alot of noise. Got a picture of the little one just the other day. Decided to look up what kind of woodpecker it was, which brought me here.

    Reply

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