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11 Woodpeckers in Oklahoma (Pictures)

 Last Reviewed by Jesse Foutch on 01-23-2024

Oklahoma, with its diverse landscape of over 12.5 million acres of forests, provides a perfect backdrop for its 11 species of woodpeckers. From the dense woodlands of the east to the unique Cross Timbers and forests of the west, these birds thrive across the state.

This article offers some insight into these woodpeckers, detailing where and when to spot them, and includes helpful photographs for identification. Get ready to learn some interesting facts about these distinctive birds in Oklahoma’s rich natural environment.

11 Woodpeckers in Oklahoma

The 11 species of woodpeckers in Oklahoma are the Pileated Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, and the Lewis’s Woodpecker.

1. 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 about the eastern third of Oklahoma, 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.

2. Red-headed Woodpecker

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 most of Oklahoma. 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. 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 most of the state of Oklahoma 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.

audio source:

4. 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 Oklahoma, 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:

5. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

photo by: dfaulder | CC 2.0

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 Oklahoma, 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.

6. 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 Oklahoma, 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.

audio source:

7. 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 Oklahoma, 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.

8. Ladder-backed Woodpecker 

Photo by: Bettina Arrigoni | CC 2.0

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 far western parts of Oklahoma. 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.  

9. Red-cockaded Woodpecker

photo by: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast | CC 2.0

Length: 7.9-9.1 in
Weight: 1.5-1.8 oz
Wingspan: 14.2 in

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is only found in a few select areas of Southeast United States. When it comes to Oklahoma, they have a range mainly in the southeastern corner of the state. Look for them in forests that have dense pine forests as these woodpeckers only nest and roost in pine trees. 

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are an endangered species with a dwindling population that have been put on a red watch list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The fact that these birds are endangered and not as abundant in the south as they once were makes them rare to come across. To find them look for pine trees with the heart fungus disease. This disease makes the wood soft and makes excavating easier.

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers have black and white bars on their backs and wings, and the sides of their heads are mostly white with black streaks on top of their heads. The males have a red cockade, or streak, near the tops of their cheeks that is near unnoticeable.  

10. Golden-fronted Woodpecker 

photo by: Becky Matsubara | CC 2.0

Length: 8.7-10.2 in
Weight: 2.6-3.5 oz 
Wingspan: 16.5-17.3 in

The Golden-fronted Woodpecker is native mostly to Mexico and Central America where it can be found year-round. However they can be found in open woodlands and brush-lands of central Texas as well as into parts of southern Oklahoma. They eat mainly insects, nuts, and seeds but will occasionally eat other birds’ eggs. 

Both males and females have the barred black and white backs and yellow napes making them hard to tell apart. The male does have a prominent red crown. Golden-fronted Woodpeckers are only found in 2 U.S. states making them less common in general, so less is known about them.

11. Lewis’s Woodpecker

image by seabamirum via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Length: 10.2-11.0 in
Weight: 3.1-4.9 oz
Wingspan:  19.3-20.5 in

Lewis’s Woodpeckers aren’t very common in Oklahoma, and are mostly only found in the far western parts of the Oklahoma panhandle. They tend to stay in pine forests and forests that have been burned.

Their populations are often unpredictable, especially after breeding season when they travel around looking for stores of acorns and nuts. They take these foods and store them in crevices to last them throughout the winter.

Unlike a lot of other woodpeckers, Lewis’s Woodpeckers mostly feed by catching insects in midair. They have broad, rounded wings that gives their flight a graceful, crow-like quality. Their coloration is also unique and features a pink belly, red patch on the face, and a dark, iridescent green on their back and wings.