The 8 Types of Woodpeckers in Georgia and Where to Find Them

The 8 Types of Woodpeckers in Georgia and Where to Find Them

Georgia (GA) is located in the southeastern United States and contains many protected areas, making it a great state to visit for birding. Habitats in the state include vast swamps, almost entirely untouched coastlines, wetlands, woodlands, and high-altitude peaks in locations such as the Appalachian Mountains. The result of the many habitat types is a bird list of more than 430 species.

Woodpeckers belong to the Picidae family. They are an interesting group of birds that drill holes into trees or pull off the bark with their chisel-shaped bills to find sap and insects. Their unique feeding behavior has led to adaptations such as a stiff tail, zygodactyl toes, and hairs covering their noses.

They also nest in cavities made in dead and decaying parts of trees. One of the tell-tale signs of a woodpecker in the area is the sound of drumming as they hammer their beaks against the side of an abject – usually a tree.

The many protected areas and top birding sites in the state range from the high-altitude Brasstown Bald in the Appalachian Mountains to Tybee and Jekyll Islands at sea level. On the coastal section of the state, you will find the excellent Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge and Altamaha Wildlife Management Area.

In the south, you will find the swampy Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, and In the far west, on the border with Alabama, the Bradley Unit of Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge is located. Near Atlanta, you will be treated with Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, Newman Wetlands Center, and E. L. Huie Land Application Facility.

In Georgia, nine woodpeckers are on the official checklist, but one species, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), is considered extinct. In the following article, we will look at the eight different types of woodpeckers in Georgia that are extant and where they are found in the state.

These Are The 8 Woodpeckers that You Can See in Georgia

1. Red-headed Woodpecker

  • Scientific nameMelanerpes erythrocephalus
  • Lifespan – 9 years (average), 12 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 7.5 to 9.1 in (19 to 23 cm)
  • Weight – 2 to 3.2 oz (56 to 91 g)
  • Wingspan – 14 to 17 in (35 to 43 cm)
  • Status – Least concern

The Red-headed Woodpecker is a medium-sized, strikingly colored woodpecker. They have a distinctive deep red head and neck, white underparts, black upper parts, and large white patches on the wings. This species makes various sounds, but their typical call is a noisy, shrill tchurr. They also sometimes make a trill charr-charr call.

Red-headed Woodpeckers typically create cavities in dead trees or dead areas of live trees. Occasionally, they nest in poles, living parts of trees, and buildings. In addition to making their own cavities, they may take over abandoned nesting holes. They do not actively place a lining in the nest, but the leftover wood chips act as a soft base.

Red-Headed Woodpecker

They may reuse their nesting cavity annually. Females lay between three and ten eggs in a clutch. The eggs are incubated for 12 to 14 days, and the hatchlings grow for 24 to 32 days before they start fledging.

One-third of their diet comprises insects such as cicadas, beetles, bees, grasshoppers, and midges. The other two-thirds consists of fruit, berries, corn, seeds, nuts, and other plant matter. Occasionally, they may feed on small rodents, birds, and eggs.

Unfortunately, the Red-headed Woodpecker is a species that needs to be monitored, as they have shown a population decline of around 54% since 1966. Today, the population consists of approximately 1.8 million breeding individuals. This species is threatened by habitat loss – particularly the loss of mature forests comprising many dead trees and a reduction in nut-producing trees. Branch trimming and dead tree removal have also impacted this species.

Where to Find Red-headed Woodpeckers

They are relatively common throughout the state in grasslands with scattered trees, deciduous woodlands, swamps, farmlands, forest edges, parks, dead tree groves, and other open areas. They occur throughout the year in some of the best locations, such as Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Newman Wetlands Center, and the Bradley Unit of Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge.

2. Red-bellied Woodpecker

  • Scientific nameMelanerpes carolinus
  • Lifespan – 9 years (average), 12 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 9 to 10.6 in (23 to 27 cm)
  • Weight – 2 to 3.2 oz (56 to 91 g)
  • Wingspan – 13 to 16.5 in (33 to 42 cm)
  • Status – Least concern

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is a colorful, medium-sized woodpecker. They have buffy or whitish undersides with a faint red wash on the belly that is sometimes visible. The upper side is barred in black and white, while the rump is white. Both sexes also have a red nape, but the difference between them is that the male has a red crown, whereas the female’s crown is grey. The typical call produced by this species is a rolling churr or kwirr. They also make a loud cha-cha-cha contact call.

In terms of nesting, Red-bellied Woodpeckers create nesting cavities in dead trees and dead parts of live trees. They sometimes also nest in fence posts. Wood chips left over from excavation usually act as the nest lining. This species usually creates a new nesting hole every year, made in the same tree and placed underneath the previous year’s hole.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The female usually lays two to six eggs in a clutch. The eggs are incubated for 12 days, and the nestlings develop for 24 to 27 days before they can start flying.

This woodpecker feeds on insects, spiders, and plant matter. Their particular plant foods are grapes, hackberries, mangoes, oranges, nuts, acorns, pine cones, and many seeds. They also sometimes eat bird nestlings, minnows, and lizards.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is not a species of conservation concern as the population has increased over the past five decades and is now estimated to comprise 16 million breeding individuals. They have expanded their range further north in recent years.

Where to Find Red-bellied Woodpeckers

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are common in Georgia, being found throughout the state at all times of the year. They inhabit many forest types, suburbs, woodlands, wetlands, and river bottoms. The best places to find this species are Jekyll Island, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, and Altamaha Wildlife Management Area.

3. Downy Woodpecker

  • Scientific nameDryobates pubescens
  • Lifespan – 2 years (average), 11 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 5.5 to 6.7 in (14 to 17 cm)
  • Weight – 0.7 to 1 oz (21 to 28 g)
  • Wingspan – 9.8 to 11.8 in (25 to 30 cm)
  • Status – Least concern

The Downy Woodpecker is a small black-and-white woodpecker. The upper side is mainly black with white wing spotting and a white back. The head is striped in black and white, while the underside is white. Males have a red nape that is absent in females. The outer tail feathers are white with dark spots. This species produces a whinnying, high-pitched series of notes that decrease in pitch over the series. They also make a pik note.

Downy Woodpeckers nest in dead trees, dead parts of live trees, and fence posts. They create a cavity on the underside of a stub that is not reused annually. Wood chips act as a lining inside the cavity. The female lays between three and eight eggs per clutch. The eggs are incubated for 12 days, and the nestling period is 18 to 21 days.

They eat insects mostly, particularly beetle larvae, corn earworms, ants, and caterpillars. In addition, berries, grains, and acorns comprise a large portion of their diet.

Downy Woodpecker

The Downy Woodpecker is not a species of conservation concern as they have a population estimated to comprise 13 million stable individuals. This species is one of the few that have benefited from forest thinning and clearing because it prefers young forests. Nesting site availability reduction threatens them as wooden fence posts are being replaced by metal fence posts.

Where to Find Downy Woodpeckers

The Downy Woodpecker occurs all year round in Georgia, inhabiting open woodlands, especially deciduous woodlands along streams. They also occur in parks, orchards, and suburbs. This common species occurs throughout the state at locations such as Jekyll Island, E. L. Huie Land Application Facility, and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

4. Hairy Woodpecker

  • Scientific nameDryobates villosus
  • Lifespan – 10 years (average), 15 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 7.1 to 10.2 in (18 to 26 cm)
  • Weight – 1.4 to 3.4 oz (40 to 95 g)
  • Wingspan – 13 to 16.1 in (33 to 41 cm)
  • Status – Least concern

The Hairy Woodpecker is a medium-sized black-and-white woodpecker. They have black upperparts, white spots on the wings, and a white back. The head has black and white stripes, and the underside is white. The males have a red patch on the nape, which differs from the female’s black nape patch.

Another key feature is the unmarked, white outer tail feathers. The most usual call produced by this species is a short peek note. They also make a whinnying call.

Hairy Woodpeckers typically create nesting holes on the underside of dead stubs on live trees. The trees are usually softened by heartrot; if not, they use dead trees. No lining is made, but leftover wood chips act as a lining at the bottom of the cavity.

They don’t reuse their nests the next year. Females lay between three and six eggs per clutch. The incubation period is 11 to 12 days, and the hatchlings stay in the nest for 28 to 30 days before they leave.

Hairy Woodpecker

They feed on larvae and pupae of woodboring beetles, bark beetles, moths, ants, bees, caterpillars, and wasps, constituting approximately three-quarters of their diet. They also feed on millipedes, spiders, seeds, and fruit.

The Hairy Woodpecker is not of conservation concern, as it has increased in population size over the past five decades. The total number of breeding individuals is estimated to comprise 8.9 million birds. This species is threatened by competition for nesting cavities with the non-native European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) and forest fragmentation.

Where to Find Hairy Woodpeckers

They are found all over the state throughout the year, where they are common. They inhabit mature coniferous and deciduous woodlands comprising medium-sized trees, suburban environments, woodlots, swamps, orchards, recently burnt forests, and parks. They can be seen at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, Newman Wetlands Center, and Brasstown Bald.

5. Pileated Woodpecker

  • Scientific nameDryocopus pileatus
  • Lifespan – 9 years (average), 12 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 15.8 to 19.3 in (40 to 49 cm)
  • Weight – 8.8 to 12.3 oz (250 to 350 g)
  • Wingspan – 26 to 29.5 in (66 to 75 cm)
  • Status – Least concern

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest extant woodpecker in North America. They have black plumage overall, white stripes on the face and neck, and a red crest. The underwing is white, and the upper wing shows white crescents near the primaries.

The males have a red malar stripe and forecrown, which are both black on the females. This species is relatively vocal and makes a series of piping notes. They also make a wuk-wuk or cuk-cuk call as an alarm.

Pileated Woodpeckers create nesting cavities in dead deciduous or coniferous trees. The only lining in the nest is wood chips left over from excavation. Every year, a new hole is excavated. Females lay between three and five eggs in each clutch. The eggs are incubated for 15 to 18 days, and the nestling period is 24 to 31 days.

The Pileated Woodpecker mainly feeds on carpenter ants. However, they sometimes feed on nuts, fruit, and insects such as other ants, termites, woodboring beetles, flies, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and cockroaches.

Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is not of conservation concern. Their population has increased since 1966 and is estimated to consist of 2.6 million breeding individuals. Removing unpleasant-looking dead trees threatens this species as they are important nesting and foraging sites.

Where to Find Pileated Woodpeckers

The Pileated Woodpecker is a common species in Georgia, inhabiting almost all types of mature deciduous and coniferous forests, well-wooded suburban areas, and stands of dead trees in young forests. They are found throughout the year across the state in locations such as Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, and Brasstown Bald.

6. Red-cockaded Woodpecker

  • Scientific nameDryobates borealis
  • Lifespan – 12 years (average), 16 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 7.9 to 9.1 in (20 to 23 cm)
  • Weight – 1.5 to 1.8 oz (42 to 52 g)
  • Wingspan – 13.4 to 16.1 in (34 to 41 cm)
  • Status – Near-threatened

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is a small, primarily black-and-white woodpecker. They have a black back with white horizontal stripes. The head is predominantly black, but the cheeks are white and have a prominent dark malar stripe.

The underside is white, and the flanks are spotted. Males differ from females by having a red streak behind the eye. This species is very vocal and makes a sklit call when disturbed, along with a churt call in flight.

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker nests in pine trees – targeting areas infected by red heart fungus. They excavate cavity nests in the soft parts of live trees. They don’t make a lining, but the leftover wood chips are present to form a base.

This species often uses the same nesting site for years on end. Females lay two to five eggs in a clutch, which are incubated for 10 to 11 days. Once hatched, the nestlings grow for 26 to 29 days before they leave the nest.

They forage in groups and feed on insects such as ants, termites, bark beetles, pine beetles, centipedes, corn earworms, and wood roaches in all life stages. Occasionally, they feed on fruits and seeds, including pine seeds, grapes, wild cherries, and berries.

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers were once a common species across the southeastern United States when the longleaf pine forests were still extensive. Logging practices almost completely destroyed their favored longleaf pine tree stands during the twentieth century.

Habitat loss and logging have led to an 86% decrease in the population size since 1966. They now have an estimated population size of 19,000 breeding individuals. They are listed as near-threatened because their population is declining, and they have a small range. Most of the remaining population is on protected federal land.

Where to Find Red-cockaded Woodpeckers

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is an uncommon habitat specialist – inhabiting mature pine forests – particularly longleaf pine tree stands. However, they also sometimes occur in slash, loblolly, pond, pitch, Virginia, and shortleaf pine forests. They remain in the state all year round and are most easily seen at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, Moody Forest Natural Area, and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

7. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

  • Scientific nameSphyrapicus varius
  • Lifespan – 6 years (average), 8 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 7.1 to 8.7 in (18 to 22 cm)
  • Weight – 1.5 to 1.9 oz (43 to 55 g)
  • Wingspan – 13.4 to 15.8 in (34 to 40 cm)
  • Status – Least concern

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a small, black-and-white woodpecker. They have primarily dark upper parts with white patterning and whitish-yellow underparts. The head and neck have black and white stripes, and a red crown is present. White patches are seen on the wings.

The difference between males and females is seen on the throat, where males have a red throat and females have a white throat. The typical call produced by this species is a loud mew. Another call of theirs is a squealed quee-ah, quee-ah, as well as a waa call.

This species excavates a nesting cavity in fungus-infected parts of living trees. They don’t line the nest with any material but the wood chips from the excavation act as a lining. Nests are often reused annually. Females lay between four and six eggs in a clutch. The eggs are incubated for 10 to 13 days, and the nestlings leave after 25 to 30 days.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers feed almost exclusively on sap. They supplement their diet with insects, spiders, and fruit.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is not a species of conservation concern as the total population is estimated to comprise 14 million breeding individuals. The population trend has been increasing over the past five decades. Increases may be associated with converting old-growth forests to early successional forests. Historically, they were shot by people because they feed on fruit in orchards.

Where to Find Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is common and occurs throughout the state. It is a migratory species that only visits for the winter and can be seen between October and April. They inhabit young forests in their breeding range, but in winter, they occur in hardwood and softwood forests, orchards, open woodlands, and parks.

The Bradley Unit of Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge, Tybee Island, and Altamaha Wildlife Management Area are good places to search for this species.

8. Northern Flicker

  • Scientific nameColaptes auratus
  • Lifespan – 3 years (average), 9 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 11 to 12.2 in (28 to 31 cm)
  • Weight – 3.9 to 5.6 oz (110 to 160 g)
  • Wingspan – 16.5 to 20.1 in (42 to 51 cm)
  • Status – Least concern

The Northern Flicker is a large, interestingly patterned woodpecker. This species is seen in two different color morphs – a red-shafted morph and a yellow-shafted morph. Features shared between both morphs, and both sexes are the black-spotted buff underparts, grey-brown, black-barred upperparts, a white rump, and a black bib.

The yellow-shafted morph has a peachy face, a red nape, a black mustache stripe, and yellow feathers on the tail and wings. The red-shafted morph has a grey face, a grey nape, a red mustache stripe, and red feathers on the wings and tail. Females are separated from males by the lack of a mustache stripe.

Northern Flicker

The Northern Flicker’s usual call is a rolling rattle that fluctuates in intensity over several seconds. They also produce a noisy single-note kyeer call, amongst other sounds.

They nest in dead and sick trees, making cavities in the trunk or a large branch. The cavity lining is made from wood chips, and nesting holes are often reused from the previous year. They may also nest in bank burrows.

The female lays between five and eight eggs per clutch. The eggs are incubated for 11 to 13 days, and the hatchlings develop for 24 to 27 days before they leave the nest.

The diet of the Northern Flicker mainly consists of insects – particularly ants and beetles. Seeds, berries, and fruits are also part of their diet, along with butterflies, moths, snails, and flies.

The Northern Flicker is not a species of conservation concern, but the population has decreased since 1966 by around 47%. The estimated population size is 12 million breeding individuals. Threats to this species are logging practices which reduce nesting and foraging site availability.

Where to Find Northern Flickers

Northern Flickers are common year-round in the state, and they can be found on forest edges, in woodlands, in the suburbs, in parks, and in open fields with sparse trees. They are located at many locations, including the Bradley Unit of Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge, E. L. Huie Land Application Facility, and Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge.


Georgia is a good state to visit if you would like a variety of birding sites and a good chance of seeing woodpeckers. Seven of the eight species are common and easy to find. The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is the only species that may be challenging to find, but if you look in the right areas, you could be in luck.

Local birders would be happy to hear that only one species (the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker) is migratory, and the other seven can be seen throughout the year.

Woodpeckers are a fascinating group of birds with interesting bodies and feeding behaviors. They are ecosystem engineers as they make cavities in trees and logs that other bird species and some mammals can use as nesting sites or shelters.

They also impact the environment by being a natural form of pest control – feeding on insect swarms that could damage structures and agricultural land.

Woodpeckers generally rely heavily on dead or dying trees, especially those with snags and stubs. In the modern age, many of their favorite nesting and foraging sites are removed because they do not add aesthetic value to properties.

They also face threats from habitat destruction, competition with other birds, and human disturbance. While some species have stable or increasing populations, others have unfortunately been decreasing. Luckily, many of the woodpecker species occur in protected areas in Georgia, so declines shouldn’t be as rapid as they were over the past several decades.