Woodpeckers come in all sizes, and are uniquely adapted to life hopping up and down trees excavating insects from the wood. In this article we’ll take a look at 12 species of woodpeckers in Oregon, and give a little information about where and when you might be able to spot them. At the end of the article we’ll also share a few tips on how to attract woodpeckers to your yard.
12 Species of Woodpeckers in Oregon
There are at least 17 species of woodpeckers that can be seen in North America. With 12 species that make their home here at least part of the year, Oregon is a great place to find woodpeckers!
The 12 species of woodpeckers in Oregon are the acorn woodpecker, American three-toed woodpecker, black-backed woodpecker, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, Lewis’s woodpecker, Northern flicker, pileated woodpecker, red-breasted sapsucker, red-naped sapsucker, white-headed woodpecker and Williamson’s sapsucker.
1. Acorn Woodpecker
- Scientific name: Melanerpes formicivorus
- Length: 7.5-9.1 in
- Weight: 2.3-3.2 oz
- Wingspan: 13.8-16.9 in
Acorn woodpeckers have a very limited range in North America, but can be found along coastal Oregon year-round. You can find them in oak or pine-oak forests where they eat acorns and a number of different insects.
Like many woodpecker they will at least occasionally visit suet feeders, but aren’t known to be a common backyard species. They are considered fairly common in the Rouge Valley and Klamath River Canyon.
Both sexes have a black back, tail and chest, with a white streaked belly. Their mostly black head has a white ring around the face, and their white eye-ring really stands out. Both males and females have red on the head, but the males red extends down to the forehead.
As their name suggests, acorn woodpeckers are known for drilling holes in trees called “granaries” and storing acorns in them, as many as 50,000 in some cases. They jam them into these holes so tightly that other animals are unable to remove them. This is their cache for a later date, when food is more scarce. They’ll also fiercely guard these food caches from anything that tries to steal from them.
2. American Three-toed Woodpecker
- Scientific name: Picoides dorsalis
- Length: 8.3-9.1 in
- Weight: 1.6-2.4 oz
- Wingspan: 14.6-15.3 in
While the American three-toed woodpecker is actually found more often in Canada than the U.S., they can be found in certain areas of Oregon. Look for them in the wooded areas along the Cascade range, as well as the northeastern corner of the state. They prefer damaged, old growth forests with lots of dead or even burned trees where they can extract insect larvae and mine for bugs easily.
The majority of woodpeckers have 4 toes, or Zygodactyl toes. However as the name suggests, these woodpeckers have just 3 toes. It is believed that the three-toed woodpecker is able to lean back further and strike a more powerful blow to its target because of the leverage having just 3 toes affords it.
Overall these woodpeckers are not common in the U.S. and are rarely seen at backyard feeders.
3. Black-backed Woodpecker
- Scientific name: Picoides arcticus
- Length: 9.1 in
- Weight: 2.1-3.1 oz
- Wingspan: 15.8-16.5 in
Black-backed woodpeckers are most often found in burned forests between roughly 1 to 8 years old. 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.
It is not known how these woodpeckers locate burned forests, but they will sometimes arrive just weeks after a fire. This species only has three toes, like the American three-toed woodpecker. They will also forage in un-burnt forests, following populations of bark beetles.
Find them any time of year through the Cascades and forested areas east of the Cascades.
4. Downy Woodpecker
- Scientific name: Dryobates pubescens
- 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 throughout Oregon all year. They are very common throughout almost all of the U.S. and are the smallest species of woodpeckers in North America. The downy is only about the size of a sparrow, and can be identified by the white spots on their backs, and pure white chest and belly. Males have a red patch at the back of their head.
The downy is the woodpecker species most likely to visit backyard bird feeders. They love suet but also eat a variety of seeds like sunflower seeds, millet, and peanuts. You may even see them visiting your hummingbird feeder, where their small beak allows them access to the sugar water.
5. Hairy Woodpecker
- Scientific name: Dryobates villosus
- 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. Hairy woodpeckers often occur in the same areas as downy’s across the U.S. and cause plenty of confusion when you’re trying to identify which is which.
The hairy woodpecker is significantly larger, and has a longer beak relative to its body size than the downy. We have an article here that can help you learn how to tell them apart.
These two woodpeckers are very similar in all ways from habitat to diet. They can be found in Oregon all year, and are more common in the western half of the state. The hairy woodpecker tends to be a little more shy of humans, and while they will visit backyard suet feeders, they aren’t as commonly seen as the downy.
6. Lewis’s Woodpecker
- Scientific name: Melanerpes lewis
- Length: 10.2-11.0 in
- Weight: 3.1-4.9 oz
- Wingspan: 19.3-20.5 in
Lewis’s woodpeckers may be seen throughout Oregon, but they are often absent from the eastern half of the state during the non-breeding months. They tend to stay in pine forests and forests that have been burned, but their populations are often unpredictable.
After breeding season they travel around looking for stores of acorns and nuts, so their fall-winter population often ends up in different locations year-to-year. They take these foods and store them in crevices to last them throughout the winter.
Unlike a lot of other woodpeckers, Lewis’s woodpeckers catch insects in midair. They have broad, rounded wings that gives their flight a graceful, crow-like quality.
Their coloration is also unique considering most woodpeckers have black and white bodies. Lewis’s are quite colorful, with a pink belly, red patch on the face, and a dark, iridescent green on their back and wings.
7. Northern Flicker
- Scientific name: Colaptes auratus
- Length: 11.0-12.2 in
- Weight: 3.9-5.6 oz
- Wingspan: 16.5-20.1 in
These medium to large sized woodpeckers are quite common in backyards throughout the United States. In my opinion they are also among some of the most colorful birds in North America.
Flickers feed mainly on insects and unlike other woodpeckers, often like to find them on the ground rather than trees. Identify them by the black spots on their bellies, solid black bib, barred black and gray wings, and brown face on a gray head.
Males have a red “mustache” that females do not. In Oregon you get the “red-shafted” variety, and they have bright red feathers on the underside of their wings and tail.
Northern Flickers can be found throughout Oregon all year, and will sometimes visit backyard suet feeders. If you have some leaf piles in the yard, you may see them digging around for bugs.
8. Pileated Woodpecker
- Scientific name: Dryocopus pileatus
- Length: 15.8-19.3 in
- Weight: 8.8-12.3 oz
- Wingspan: 26.0-29.5 in
The pileated woodpecker is the largest of all woodpeckers in Oregon, as well as North America. They have a black body, black and white striped face and large red crest. Males have a red cheek stripe while females do not. Pileated woodpeckers are typically only see in the western third of the state, as well as the northeast corner.
Their favorite food is carpenter ants, and they will create large rectangular holes in trees to get at them.
If you want to spot a pileated woodpecker, look in mature forests. They love old, dead trees that have rotting wood. Pileated woodpeckers will sometimes come to backyard feeders, although they are much less common visitors than other species and often are too large for all but the biggest suet feeder.
9. Red-breasted Sapsucker
- Scientific name: Sphyrapicus ruber
- Length: 7.9-8.7 in
- Weight: 1.9-2.2 oz
- Wingspan: 14.6-16.0 in
Red-breasted sapsuckers are found year-round in western Oregon. They mostly reside in pine forests that also contain aspen and alder.
Red-breasted sapsuckers are medium sized woodpeckers with solid red heads and red chests. The rest of their bodies are covered in black and white plumage. This all-red head makes them easy to tell apart from other sapsuckers.
They forage the same way other sapsuckers do, by drilling small sap wells into trees in order to lap up the tree sap as it flows.
10. Red-naped Sapsucker
- Scientific name: Sphyrapicus nuchalis
- Length: 7.5-8.3 in
- Weight: 1.1-2.3 oz
- Wingspan: 16.1-16.9 in
Red-naped sapsuckers are closely related the previous species, the red-breased sapsucker. In fact they were believed to be the same species at one time. Since both species are found in Oregon they may occasionally breed and create hybrids, although the red-naped sapsuckers are more commonly found in the eastern parts of the state.
Both males and females have a red forehead, while males have a fully red throat and females have a white throat with red “necklace”. Rather than solid red, their head coloring is broken up with black and white striping.
Like other sapsuckers, they drink sap from trees like aspen, birch, or pine, but also feed on insects. Neat rows of holes in a sap-producing tree is a good indicator that a sapsucker is in the area.
Look for them in Oregon early in the breeding season (mid-May), and early in the morning when they are most active. They remain in eastern Oregon for the summer, then head south out of the state in the fall.
11. White-headed Woodpecker
- Scientific name: Dryobates albolarvatus
- Length: 8.3-9.1 in
- Weight: 1.9-2.3 oz
- Wingspan: 16.9 in
White-headed woodpeckers are only found in isolated patches in the United States. They favor mountainous pine forests and aren’t typically found in woodlands without pines. In Oregon, they are typically only see in the Ochoco, Blue and Wallowa mountains, and the east side of the Cascades.
These woodpeckers love pine seeds and cones, so look for them in forests with lots of ponderosa, Jeffery, Coulter, and sugar pines. Rather than drill into trees, they prefer to pull and peel the bark. They’ll also flock to burned forests to take advantage of the insects there.
White-headed woodpeckers are about the same size of an American Robin, with mostly inky black plumage all over, except for their bright white heads and white stripes on their wings. Adult Males also have a vibrant red patch on their heads similar to other species of woodpeckers.
12. Williamson’s Sapsucker
- Scientific name: Sphyrapicus thyroideus
- Length: 8.3-9.8 in
- Weight: 1.6-1.9 oz
- Wingspan: 17 inches
Williamson’s sapsuckers are only found in a handful of western states, Oregon being one of them. They are mainly found in the Blue Mountains, and the eastern slope of the Cascades. These sapsuckers only visit Oregon during the summer breeding season, then head further south for the winter.
They feed primarily on the sap of coniferous trees, extracting it by drilling sap-wells. Males and females look very different. Males have black backs with bright yellow bellies and a touch of red on the chin. Females have brown heads with black and white striped bodies.
Uncommon in backyards, Williamson’s sapsuckers are primarily found in mountainous forests. They roost in natural or excavated cavities and prefer nesting in a larger, older trees.
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How to Attract Woodpeckers
Those of us who love to watch backyard birds want to attract as many types as possible. While many songbirds are fairly easy to attract with birdseed, woodpeckers can be a little more difficult and enjoy more specific foods. Here are a few tips for what you can do to make your yard a more attractive place for woodpeckers to visit.
- Offer food they like – Many types of woodpeckers are brave enough to visit feeders. While some species will eat seeds and nuts, suet tends to be the best food for attracting woodpeckers. Be sure to get a suet feeder with a tail prop area that will help attract larger woodpecker species.
- 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 – Species such as the northern flicker and pileated woodpecker have been known to use nest boxes.
- 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.
For even more great tips, check this article on how to attract woodpeckers to your yard