8 Woodpeckers of Louisiana (With Pictures)

8 Woodpeckers of Louisiana (With Pictures)

In the state of Louisiana, woodpeckers play a vital role in the region’s ecosystems. These birds, belonging to the Picidae family, have adapted to the diverse habitats found in Louisiana, from its swamps to its forests.

This article explores the woodpecker species that inhabit Louisiana, including the Pileated Woodpecker and the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, shedding light on their distinctive behaviors and ecological significance.

Woodpeckers are known for their ability to drill into trees, a skill that influences forest health by creating nesting sites for other species and controlling insect populations. However, they face various challenges due to habitat loss and environmental changes.

This article delves into the world of Louisiana’s woodpeckers, offering insights into their adaptations, ecological roles, and ongoing conservation efforts. By understanding these birds better, we can appreciate their importance in maintaining the state’s natural balance and work towards their preservation.

1. Red-Headed Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus
  • Life span: 8 – 10 years
  • Size: 19 to 25 cm (7.5 to 9.8 in)
  • Weight: 56 to 97 g (2.0 to 3.4 oz)
  • Wingspan: 35 to 43 cm (14 to 17 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and uncommon

Known for its striking red head and neck, the Red-Headed Woodpecker is a captivating avian that effortlessly stands out. Its lustrous black body and wings, complemented by white underparts and a distinctive white patch near the tail base, make it easily recognizable in Louisiana.

This medium-sized woodpecker thrives on the abundant insect and invertebrate populations, along with a diet of fruits and nuts.

Red-Headed Woodpecker

During the breeding season in May, the male impressively drums on dead trees to court potential mates. Once a pair forms, they collaborate to carve nest cavities in decaying or dead trees.

The female incubates the eggs while the male dutifully provides food for her and the chicks. Even after the young fledge, the family remains united, foraging and roosting together before gradually establishing their own territories.

Feeding on insects, nuts, and fruits, Red-Headed Woodpeckers are versatile eaters, occasionally opportunistically raiding smaller bird species’ nests during challenging times.

Despite being categorized as “Least Concern,” their population has notably decreased due to habitat loss and the removal of dead trees for nesting. To support and potentially increase their numbers, essential measures like creating artificial nest cavities, providing bird feeders, preserving dead trees, and establishing new nesting sites are crucial.

2. Pileated Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Dryocopus pileatus
  • Life span: 6-10 years
  • Size: 16-19 inches
  • Weight: 10-12 oz
  • Wingspan: 26-30 inches
  • Status: Least concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

The enthralling Pileated Woodpecker, common in North America, stands out with its striking black body, white neck, and resonating drumming. Preferring mature forests, it feasts on diverse insects. Elusive and shy, birdwatchers find it a thrilling challenge to spot amidst the Louisianan woods.

A Pileated Woodpecker sitting in a tree.

The Pileated Woodpecker is monogamous, fiercely defending its territory through vocalizations and displays. Known for its exceptional excavation skills, it creates large cavities in decaying trees for nesting and food storage.

Adaptable to artificial nest boxes, it thrives on an omnivorous diet, primarily consisting of insects.

Deforestation caused historic declines, but reforestation efforts and urban forests aided a remarkable recovery. Now classified as “Least Concern” by the IUCN, conservation focuses on preserving native habitats and providing suitable nesting and foraging sites to ensure the survival of these majestic forest dwellers.

3. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

  • Scientific name: Melanerpes flavifrons
  • Life span: 5-8 years
  • Size: 8-10 inches
  • Weight: 2.5 oz
  • Wingspan: 14-16 inches
  • Status: Least concern
  • State status: Migratory and common

The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, a medium-sized woodpecker species, graces North America with its striking black and white plumage. Its namesake yellow belly stands out prominently.

These birds are prevalent in deciduous forests, orchards, and parks across their range. Their distinctive behavior includes creating shallow holes in trees to access sap and insects beneath the bark.

A Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, with its eye-catching black and white features and distinctive yellow belly, is a woodpecker species renowned for its unique nesting habits. Collaboratively, male and female birds use their beaks to carve holes into trees or wooden structures, lining the nests with soft materials like wood chips or grass.

These sapsuckers rely on tree sap, insects, fruits, and occasionally small birds for sustenance, favouring coniferous trees that attract their preferred food sources. While currently classified as “Least Concern” by the IUCN, some regions have witnessed population declines due to habitat loss and degradation.

Conservation efforts focus on safeguarding mature forested areas with a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees, where the Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers can thrive. By preserving their habitats, stable populations can be maintained, counteracting local declines caused by deforestation.

4. Downy Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Picoides pubescens
  • Life span: 2-5 years
  • Size: 6-7 inches
  • Weight: 1 oz
  • Wingspan: 13 inches
  • Status: Least concern
  • State status: Breeding and very common

The Downy Woodpecker, a small avian commonly seen in various North American regions, including Louisiana, displays a unique black and white head pattern and a short, chisel-shaped bill. In flight, its black dorsal feathers, white ventral feathers, and wing markings catch the eye.

This diminutive bird plays a vital role in the forest ecosystem, controlling insect populations and aiding in seed dispersal for trees and plants.

A Downy Woodpecker

The Downy Woodpecker’s remarkable skill in creating nesting cavities is well-known. Both male and female woodpeckers collaborate, using their sturdy beaks to chisel away at wood until they form a suitable site.

The nest cavity is thoughtfully lined with soft materials like wood chips for the chicks’ comfort.

This bird’s diet primarily consists of insects, such as beetles, ants, and caterpillars, which it finds by pecking at tree bark. It also enjoys sipping sap from trees and shrubs, achieved by puncturing holes in the bark, and indulges in fruits, nuts, and seeds from various plants like palmetto, elderberry, and pine cones.

Despite experiencing declines in some regions due to habitat loss and degradation, the Downy Woodpecker remains classified as “Least Concern” by the IUCN. Conservation efforts focus on preserving and rehabilitating critical habitats, managing and removing invasive species, and promoting sustainable forestry practices to safeguard this species and its homes.

5. Hairy Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Picoides villosus
  • Life span: 5-10 years
  • Size: 7-10 inches
  • Weight: 1.5 oz
  • Wingspan: 16-20 inches
  • Status: Least concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

The Hairy Woodpecker, a native Texan species, boasts a striking black and white plumage pattern, a lengthy chisel-shaped bill, and a unique personality. This adaptable bird can be spotted in various habitats, from Alaskan woodlands to Mexican residential areas, and is known for frequenting bird feeders.

Renowned for its exceptional tree-drumming abilities and adeptness at extracting insects from tree trunks, it has become a favorite among bird enthusiasts and backyard birdwatchers alike.

Hairy Woodpecker

The Hairy Woodpecker is a skilled nest excavator, creating cavities in trees or wooden structures. Both male and female woodpeckers actively contribute, using their beaks to extract wood until an ideal nest site is formed.

Soft materials like wood chips, and occasionally human-made items such as cigarette filters, clothing fragments, and foam, furnish the nest.

Their diet mainly consists of insects like beetles, ants, and caterpillars, foraged by pecking at tree bark and other wooden surfaces. They also consume sap from trees and shrubs, along with various fruits, nuts, and seeds.

Though the Hairy Woodpecker is widespread across North America, including Louisiana, some populations have declined due to habitat loss and degradation. However, conservation efforts are in place to protect this species and its habitats. Currently, the IUCN has classified the Hairy Woodpecker as “Least Concern.”

6. Northern Flicker

  • Scientific name: Colaptes auratus
  • Life span: 5-8 years
  • Size: 8-10 inches
  • Weight: 2.5 oz
  • Wingspan: 14-16 inches
  • Status: Least concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

The substantial Northern Flicker stands out with its distinct appearance. Ranging widely across North America, from Alaska to Mexico, it delights in diverse habitats like forests, parks, and suburban areas.

With captivating patterns, red nape patch, and lively behavior, bird enthusiasts cherish its presence. Its long, straight beak grants adaptability, savouring insects, seeds, and fruits.

Northern Flicker

The Northern Flicker, known for its intricate nesting habits, skillfully constructs cavities in trees or other structures. Preferring decaying or dead trees for nests, this bird also adapts to human-made structures like fence posts and utility poles.

Renowned for its drumming behavior, it communicates and attracts mates by rhythmically tapping its beak on hard surfaces.

This bird has a varied diet, feeding on insects such as ants, beetles, caterpillars, and termites, as well as fruits, berries, and nuts. During winter, it ingeniously extracts sap from trees using its elongated tongue.

Classified as “Least Concern” by the IUCN, the Northern Flicker has a population estimated between 10 and 20 million. Although facing challenges like habitat loss due to deforestation and urbanization, it has successfully adapted to human-altered environments, often venturing into urban settings.

7. Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Picoides borealis
  • Life span: 5 to 9 years
  • Size: 7.1 to 8.3 inches (18 to 21 cm)
  • Weight: 1.5 to 1.8 ounces (42 to 51 grams)
  • Wingspan: 14 to 16.5 inches (36 to 42 cm)
  • Status: Least concern
  • State status: Breeding and rare

Meet the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, a captivating species found in the southeastern United States. These woodpeckers showcase a unique appearance with striking black and white plumage, accented by a small red streak on the males’ heads. Remarkably, they’re the only North American woodpecker to excavate cavities exclusively in living pine trees, a behavior that sets them apart.

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

These crafty woodpeckers chisel cavities into living pine trees, ingeniously creating cozy homes for their families. With meticulous care, they carefully maintain their homes, ensuring safe and snug abodes for their chicks.

Their diverse diet features insects, delectable fruits, and even tree sap. During the summer, they relish on a feast of lip-smacking ants, gorging themselves with gusto. Come autumn, juicy berries and pinecone seeds are on the table, adding delightful variety to their culinary adventures.

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers have faced challenges, their once-vast habitats dwindling due to deforestation and urban expansion. Yet, conservationists work tirelessly, implementing prescribed fires to create the perfect natural environment for these woodpeckers to thrive.

Thanks to these concerted efforts, these charismatic birds continue to inspire and enrich the forests they call home.

8. Red-Bellied Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Melanerpes carolinus
  • Life span: Up to 15 years
  • Size: 9 to 10.6 inches (23 to 27 cm)
  • Weight: 2 to 3.2 ounces (57 to 91 grams)
  • Wingspan: 13 to 16.5 inches (33 to 42 cm)
  • Status: Least concern
  • State status: Breeding and very common

Introducing the Red-bellied Woodpecker, a vibrant avian delighting in the woodlands of eastern North America, from Florida to southern Canada. These enchanting woodpeckers boast striking black and white plumage, but don’t be fooled by their name – their belly is only a blush of red!

A close up photo of a Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The Red-bellied Woodpecker, a lively character in the woodlands, builds its nests in cozy cavities, expertly selecting tree hollows with architectural precision. They line their nests with fluffy materials, creating a snug haven for their chicks.

As true foodies of the forest, Red-bellied Woodpeckers indulge in a delectable assortment of insects, juicy fruits, and even scrumptious seeds. Their nimble tongues probe tree crevices, expertly extracting hidden treats with finesse.

Throughout history, Red-bellied Woodpeckers have thrived in the lush woodlands of eastern North America. However, with the encroachment of human development, their habitats have faced challenges. Dedicated conservationists now work to protect these dynamic birds, establishing protected areas and educating communities on coexistence.

Thanks to these efforts, the vibrant presence of the Red-bellied Woodpecker continues to grace the forest with its charming existence.

Where to look for Woodpeckers in Louisiana

Finding woodpeckers in Louisiana can be a rewarding experience for bird enthusiasts. These vibrant birds can be encountered throughout the state, but there are specific regions and techniques that enhance your chances of spotting them.

Here are four notable areas to explore and tips on how to find woodpeckers in Louisiana:

  • Atchafalaya Basin: This sprawling swamp offers excellent woodpecker-watching opportunities. Look for the Pileated Woodpecker, which can often be seen in cypress and tupelo trees along waterways. Use binoculars or a telephoto lens to observe them from a distance.
  • Kisatchie National Forest: This expansive forest in central Louisiana is home to a variety of woodpecker species, including the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Join guided tours organized by local conservation groups to learn more about these endangered birds and their habitat.
  • Toledo Bend Reservoir: Head to this scenic area along the Louisiana-Texas border, where you can spot the Red-bellied Woodpecker and Downy Woodpecker. Look for them in wooded areas and campgrounds, where they often visit feeders.
  • Tickfaw State Park: Located in the southeastern part of the state, this park is known for its diverse birdlife. Explore the park’s trails and keep an eye out for the Northern Flicker and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, both of which can be found in deciduous forests.

When searching for woodpeckers, it’s essential to be patient and quiet. Bring along field guides or birding apps to help with identification, and consider participating in local birding groups or tours for expert guidance.

Respect the birds’ natural habitat and enjoy the serene beauty of Louisiana’s landscapes while observing these fascinating woodpeckers.


From the Atchafalaya Basin to the Toledo Bend Reservoir, these birds find refuge in diverse habitats. By respecting their habitats and appreciating their unique roles, we can ensure that woodpeckers continue to enrich Louisiana’s biodiversity and inspire a deeper connection with the state’s natural treasures.

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