12 Woodpeckers of Texas (With Pictures)

12 Woodpeckers of Texas (With Pictures)

Texas is home to a diverse array of bird species, and among them, woodpeckers stand out as fascinating and vibrant avian treasures. These remarkable birds possess unique adaptations, such as powerful beaks for drumming and foraging, as well as stunning plumage that varies from species to species.

From the iconic Red-headed Woodpecker to the elusive Golden-fronted Woodpecker, these skilled percussive artists play a crucial role in the state’s ecosystems, shaping tree habitats and controlling insect populations.

In this article, we delve into the enchanting world of woodpeckers in Texas, uncovering their captivating behaviors and the conservation efforts dedicated to preserving their natural habitats.

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

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

A Red-Headed Woodpecker sitting on a tree trunk in the fall

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

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 Texas woods.

A Pileated Woodpecker

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: Sphyrapicus varius
  • Life span: 5-8 years
  • Size: 8-10 inches
  • Weight: 2.5 oz
  • Wingspan: 14-16 inches
  • Status: Least concern

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 and its shallow holes

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

The Downy Woodpecker, a small avian commonly seen in various North American regions, including Texas, 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 sitting on a log

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

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.

The Hairy Woodpecker sitting in a tree with a snowy beak

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 Texas, 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

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.

A Northern Flicker sitting on a moss-covered branch

The Northern Flicker is celebrated for its remarkable nesting behavior, crafting cavities in trees or other surfaces. This adaptable bird chooses decaying or dead trees for nesting but also utilizes human-made structures like fence posts or utility poles. Known for its drumming, it rhythmically taps its beak on hard surfaces for communication and attracting mates.

Its diverse diet includes insects like ants, beetles, caterpillars, and termites, along with fruits, berries, and nuts from trees. In winter, when insects are scarce, it skillfully gathers sap from trees using its long tongue.

Classified as “Least Concern” by the IUCN, the Northern Flicker’s population ranges between 10 and 20 million individuals. Although some subspecies face habitat loss from deforestation and urban development, this bird has adapted well to human-modified landscapes, even expanding into urban areas.

7. Acorn Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Melanerpes formicivorus
  • Life span: 9-17 years
  • Size: 7-9 inches (18-23 cm)
  • Weight: 3-5 oz (85-140 g)
  • Wingspan: 13-17 inches (33-43 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern

The Acorn Woodpecker, with striking plumage and a bold red crown, captivates in western North America. Their remarkable acorn hoarding habit is a spectacle as they gather thousands for communal granaries, easily accessible to the entire family year-round. Mesmerizing to watch as they fly back and forth, carrying acorns in their beaks or wedging them into tree bark for safekeeping.

Acorn Woodpecker

The Acorn Woodpecker showcases intriguing nesting behaviors that set it apart. Being cavity nesters, they create holes in trees to establish homes, but what’s truly captivating is their communal nesting approach. Multiple entrance holes form elaborate nests where several family members live together, even boasting separate compartments for storing food. Witnessing these busy birds flit in and out of their nests delights any birdwatcher.

Their diet primarily consists of seeds and nuts, with a particular fondness for acorns, for which they diligently store. In addition to nuts, they also consume insects, fruits, and tree sap, thriving in various habitats from oak woodlands to deserts.

In Texas, the Acorn Woodpecker has faced challenges due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and non-native tree species. However, conservation efforts are underway to protect these birds. Globally, they are classified as “Least Concern” by the IUCN.

8. Red-Naped Sapsucker

  • Scientific name: Sphyrapicus nuchalis
  • Life span: 7-8 years
  • Size: 7-8 inches (18-21 cm)
  • Weight: 1-1.6 oz (28-45 g)
  • Wingspan: 13-16 inches (34-41 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern

Introducing the Red-Naped Sapsucker, a striking woodpecker species found across western North America, from British Columbia to Mexico. Distinguished by its eye-catching appearance, it boasts a black and white patterned plumage with a bold red crown and a distinctive red patch on its nape.

Adding to its charm, this sapsucker exhibits a unique habit of drilling “sap wells” in trees, allowing sap to flow for both its consumption and other creatures’.

A Red-Naped Sapsucker eating small berries, hanging from the branch

Red-naped Sapsuckers have a particular nesting preference, opting for deciduous trees that offer a clear line of sight to thwart potential predators. Once the male drills small bark holes, the female constructs the nest within the cavity, reflecting their devoted parental nature.

As their name implies, these birds rely primarily on sap, extracted from their signature tree holes. However, they aren’t exclusive sap consumers; insects, fruits, and even pollen also make it onto their menu. Their sap wells attract other creatures, including hummingbirds and small birds, who occasionally indulge in the sweet liquid.

In Texas, the Red-naped Sapsucker is listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need. While stable in numbers, they face threats from habitat loss, fragmentation, and climate change. Conservation efforts, like prescribed fires to promote healthy forest ecosystems, have been implemented to preserve their habitats. As a result, they are classified as “Least Concern” by the IUCN.

9. Ladder-Backed Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Picoides scalaris
  • Life span: 7-8 years
  • Size: 6-7.5 inches (15-19 cm)
  • Weight: 0.9-1.6 oz (25-45 g)
  • Wingspan: 13-15 inches (33-38 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern

The Ladder-backed Woodpecker, a small yet powerful bird, graces the southwestern United States and Mexico with its presence. These charming creatures derive their name from the ladder-like black and white stripes adorning their backs.

With eye-catching red caps and striking facial markings, spotting them amidst desert scrub and mesquite woodlands is effortless.

A Ladder-Backed Woodpecker hanging out at a bird feeder

Ladder-backed Woodpeckers take a hands-on approach to nesting, ingeniously excavating their own cavities in dying or dead tree trunks using sharp bills. Their drumming patterns serve as unique communication signals and territorial markers.

As true omnivores, their diet varies with the season and location, encompassing insects, fruits, seeds, and even small reptiles and mammals, showcasing their importance in their ecosystems. Interestingly, their specialized tongue allows them to extract hidden insects from deep crevices.

In Texas, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers face conservation concerns due to habitat loss from human development. Despite this, the IUCN has listed them as “Least Concern” on their global Red List.

10. 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: Endangered

Meet the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, a captivating species found in the southeastern United States, from Texas to Florida and up to Virginia. 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.

A marked Red-Cockaded Woodpecker on a stick

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.

11. 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

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.

12. Golden-Fronted Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Melanerpes aurifrons
  • Life span: Up to 12 years
  • Size: 8 to 9.1 inches (20 to 23 cm)
  • Weight: 2.3 to 3.2 ounces (65 to 91 grams)
  • Wingspan: 13 to 16 inches (33 to 41 cm)
  • Status: Least concern

Say hello to the Golden-Fronted Woodpecker, a dazzling avian found across the southwestern United States and into Central America. With a captivating blend of golden hues on their head and vibrant red on their crown, these woodpeckers exude a striking charm.

A Golden-Fronted Woodpecker sitting between flowers on a stick

Golden-Fronted Woodpeckers, the master homebuilders of the woodlands, expertly construct their nests in the coziness of tree cavities. With precise beak chiseling, they ensure a snug retreat for their young, often adorning their nests with soft materials for extra comfort.

These vibrant avian gourmets savour a diverse menu, relishing juicy fruits, delectable insects, and even lip-smacking seeds. Their relentless search for hidden delicacies involves agile foraging on tree trunks and probing through bark cracks with their agile tongues.

Throughout history, Golden-Fronted Woodpeckers have charmed the southwestern United States and Central America with their vibrant presence. With habitats facing human development challenges, devoted conservationists work to preserve their woodlands homes. Educational programs and protected areas are established to safeguard these lively woodpeckers, ensuring their melodious calls continue to grace the forests for generations to come.

Where to look for Woodpeckers in Texas

To spot woodpeckers in Texas, enthusiasts should explore areas abundant in mature forests, woodlands, and parks. Look for dead or decaying trees as they serve as prime foraging sites for these charismatic birds.

Early mornings and late afternoons offer the best chances for sightings, as woodpeckers are most active during these times. Four fantastic areas to embark on woodpecker adventures include the East Texas Pineywoods, the Big Thicket National Preserve, the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, and the Davis Mountains State Park. With patience and keen observation, birdwatchers can marvel at the lively drumming and vibrant plumage of these captivating avian creatures.


With their captivating appearances, unique behaviors, and crucial roles in maintaining forest health, these avian wonders continue to mesmerize and inspire both seasoned birdwatchers and curious nature enthusiasts.

Preserving their habitats and understanding their ecological significance is vital to ensuring a harmonious coexistence between these feathered residents and the Lone Star State’s natural heritage.

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