There are 7 species of woodpeckers in Missouri. These species are the Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker.
In this article we’ll give you an overview of each on of these 7 species of woodpeckers in Missouri, including pictures for each one as well as some tips on where you might see one in your state.
The 7 Species of Woodpeckers in Missouri
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 found in woodlands across Missouri 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.
audio source: audubon.org
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 in Missouri. 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 Missouri, 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.
audio source: audubon.org
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 population of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are found in southern and mid-Missouri, then they migrate through northern parts of Missouri to their breeding grounds. 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 Missouri, but be careful you don’t confuse it for it’s look alike, 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.
audio source: audubon.org
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.
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 Missouri, 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 most of the state of Missouri — in mature forests that have plenty of dead trees and downed wood. Look 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.
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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.