There are as many as 22 species of woodpeckers in North America and you can find 12 of those woodpeckers in Texas. In this article we’ll take a look at each species and touch on where and when you might spot one in Texas. At the end of the article I’ll also give you a few tips on how to attract woodpeckers to your yard.
12 species of woodpeckers in Texas
The 12 species of woodpeckers in Texas are the Pileated Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Acorn Woodpecker, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, and the Northern Flicker.
1. Pileated Woodpecker
Length: 15.8-19.3 in
Weight: 8.8-12.3 oz
Wingspan: 26.0-29.5 in
First up is the Pileated Woodpecker, the largest of all woodpeckers in Texas as well as North America. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is the only woodpecker in North America that’s larger, but they may or may not be extinct. Pileated Woodpeckers can be found year-round in eastern Texas, near cities such as Houston and north of there.
If you want to spot a Pileated Woodpecker, look in mature forests. They love old, dead trees that has rotting wood. Pileated Woodpeckers will sometimes visit bird feeders, they do like suet, but I’ve found they still aren’t very common. I’ve yet to see one at the suet feeder at my new house but I regularly see Downys, Hairys, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Grab your camera if you do see one, they are very large and its hard to mistake a Pileated for any other type of bird.
2. Red-headed Woodpecker
Length: 7.5-9.1 in
Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz
Wingspan: 16.5 in
Found in much central and eastern Texas, the Red-headed Woodpecker is easily identified by its completely red/crimson head. They will sometimes visit suet feeders, but again are less common some other types of woodpeckers. Aside from suet they will also eat various nuts and fruits, and they are also very skilled at catching insects in mid-flight.
Red-headed Woodpeckers can be quite aggressive and it’s not uncommon for them to take over nests by knocking eggs out or even puncturing them to kill the young. They are one of only four species of woodpeckers that actively store their food in caches for later use. The Red-headed Woodpecker takes it a step further though and will go so far as to cover the food up with bark or wood to better camouflage its stash.
3. Acorn Woodpecker
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 and can only be found in east Texas. You can find them in oak or pine-oak forests where they eat acorns and a number of different insects. Like most species of woodpecker they will at least occasionally visit suet feeders, but are more rare to than maybe a Downy.
They’re known for drilling holes in trees called granaries and storing nuts in theme, as many as 50,000 nuts in some cases. They jam them into these holes so tightly that other animals are unable to remove them. They are obviously storing this food 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.
4. Golden-fronted Woodpecker
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 southern Oklahoma and occasionally southeastern New Mexico. 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 aren’t very common in the United States, so not as much is known about their lifestyle here as other species.
5. Red-bellied Woodpecker
Length: 9.4 in
Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz
Wingspan: 13.0-16.5 in
The Red-bellied Woodpecker lives in east Texas year-round, as well as much of the eastern United States. While they do have red on their heads and their red bellies aren’t extremely red, don’t confuse them with Red-headed Woodpeckers. These medium-sized woodpeckers are more common at feeders than red-heads especially if you are offering suet. They prefer nesting in dead trees and can occasionally be seen drinking nectar from hummingbird feeders.
These are one of the most common types of woodpeckers I see at my feeders. They mostly enjoy the suet feeder but I also see them taking sunflower seeds. They’re fairly large compared to other backyard feeder birds so when they swoop into a feeder most of the time the other birds fly off.
6. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Length: 7.1-8.7 in
Weight: 1.5-1.9 oz
Wingspan: 13.4-15.8 in
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker can be found in most of Texas well as the eastern half of the United States. They have a non-breeding range in Texas and migrate north to their breeding grounds in northern states and Canada. A good time to see one would be during the winter months, or late March and early April as they migrate north. They aren’t common at bird feeders and do in fact eat sap as their primary food source. They drill holes into maple, elm, aspen, and birch trees and collect sap with their long tongues. Aside from sap they also will eat a variety of insects.
7. Red-naped Sapsucker
Length: 7.5-8.3 in
Weight: 1.1-2.3 oz
Wingspan: 16.1-16.9 in
The Red-naped Sapsucker can be found in eastern Texas in what’s known as Big Bend Country. They are very closely related to Yellow-bellied’s and were even thought to be the same species until 1983 when researchers discovered they were in fact two different species.
Like other sapsuckers, they drink sap from trees like aspen, birch, or pine trees, but also feed on insects. Look for them early in the breeding season (mid-May), and early in the morning when they are most active. Neat rows of holes in a sap-producing tree is a good indicator that a sapsucker is in the area.
8. Downy Woodpecker
Length: 5.5-6.7 in
Weight: 0.7-1.0 oz
Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in
You can find these tiny woodpeckers in eastern and northern Texas all year long as they do not migrate. They are very common throughout almost all of the U.S. and are the smallest species of woodpeckers in North America. They are also very common at bird feeders many times being the first to visit a new feeder. They love suet but also eat a variety of seeds like sunflower seeds, millet, and peanuts. They’re only about the size of a sparrow and can be identified by their white spots on their backs and white underbellies. Males also will have a red patch on top of their heads.
9. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
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. They can be found throughout most of Texas all year, aside from the very east parts of Texas where they aren’t as common. 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.
10. Red-cockaded Woodpecker
Length: 7.9-9.1 in
Weight: 1.5-1.8 oz
Wingspan: 14.2 in
Red-cockaded Woodpeckers have a very limited range and are only found in a few U.S. states, Texas being one of them. They’re found year-round in a fairly small area in eastern Texas near the border, just north of Houston. Most of their habitat was lost due to logging and their populations steeply declined putting them on a red watch list with an estimated 15,000 breeding birds today. Today they are not commonly seen in the wild and the best chance of spotting one is in a wildlife refuge.
11. Hairy Woodpecker
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. Like Downy’s, Hairy Woodpeckers are also found all northern and eastern Texas. These woodpeckers are significantly larger than Downy’s and have a noticeably larger beak. Other than that they are difficult to tell apart and are very similar in all ways. I have found them to be less common at bird feeders overall.
12. Northern Flicker
Length: 11.0-12.2 in
Weight: 3.9-5.6 oz
Wingspan: 16.5-20.1 in
Northern Flickers are found in some capacity in most of North America, and all of the United States. In Texas they have a winter range in most of the state, but year-round in northern and eastern regions of the state. These large woodpeckers are between the size of a Hairy and a Pileated Woodpecker. In my opinion they are among some of the most colorful birds in North America and I love catching a glimpse of one in my yard.
Northern Flickers are different from other woodpeckers in that they usually hunt for their food on the ground and not in trees. they can commonly be seen picking through dirt and leaves looking for insects.
How to attract woodpeckersFor 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.