About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
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This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
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Saturday, May 21, 2011

How many woodpeckers are in Michigan?

There are eight woodpeckers found in Michigan.

1. Downy Woodpecker - At about 6 inches, it’s smallest woodpecker in North America and the most frequent visitor to backyard feeders year-round. They have a white belly and back and their black wings have white bars. The males have a red patch on the back of the head. It’s called downy because of the soft feathers on its back.
2. Red-headed Woodpecker – These woodpeckers have an unmistakable bright red head, black wings and white belly. They spend the summers in all of Michigan but aren’t as common at birdfeeders.
3. Red-bellied Woodpecker - They are common throughout most of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula year-round. People often call the Red-bellied woodpecker by a list of common misnomers like red-headed or ladder-back woodpecker because of their gleaming red caps and striking black and white barred backs. Since virtually all woodpeckers are black and white with patches of bright colors on various parts of their bodies, the Red-bellied was named for the unique pinkish tinge on the belly, common to both genders.
4. Hairy Woodpecker – At about 9 inches, these medium woodpeckers look like their smaller downy woodpecker cousins. They aren’t as common at suburban birdfeeders.
5. Pileated Woodpecker – Male and female Pileated Woodpeckers both have a flaming red crest but the males have a red “moustache”. There is no real consensus on whether this bird’s name is pronounced “pie-lee-ated” or “pill-ee-ated”.
6. Northern Flicker – Unlike most woodpeckers, this species spends much of its time on the ground, feeding mostly on ants. Both the male and females have a red chevron on the back of their heads, black bibs, speckled chest, and a brown, barred back and wings. The males have a black “mustache”.
7. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sapsuckers don’t actually suck sap- they lap it up with a tongue that resembles a paintbrush. According to AllAboutBirds.com, “The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the only woodpecker in eastern North America that is completely migratory. Although a few individuals remain throughout much of the winter in the southern part of the breeding range, most head farther south, going as far south as Panama. Females tend to migrate farther south than do males.”
8. Black-backed Woodpecker – I’ve never seen this bird. It is a year-round resident of northern Michigan and the U.P. According to Ted Black in his Birds of Michigan field guide, the blacked-backed are reclusive birds that are most active in recently burned forest patches where wood-boring beetles thrive under charred bark.


Tina Coruth said...

I think you solved a mystery for me! A few years ago, I got a quick look at what I thought was a ladder-backed woodpecker. Since the ladder-backed's range is far from NH, I was puzzled. I know it wasn't a downy or a hairy. My view was the back of the bird and I was struck by the bars going across the back with no vertical white. After reading through your post, I checked and the red-bellied's range includes NH. I bet that is what I saw - a red-bellied woodpecker!! That means I've seen all of NH woodpeckers except for the red-headed and black-backed. What a cool discovery. Thank you!!

Cheri C said...

Your identification guide is very helpful. A lot of identification guides give you a picture or a name and description which makes it hard to match up the picture with a name (which is the point of looking in the first place.) Your pictures matched up with the description and helpful hints of where they might be seen was just what I needed to find a name to put on a woodpecker I saw on the ground pecking at a tree root. Thanks for the help!

Anonymous said...

This week I saw a male downy woodpecker near Pontiac, Michigan on a dead ash tree, it was 7 to 8 inches I would guess.

Anonymous said...

I have heard an early morning racket lately in my neighborhood. Today unfortunately I saw who has been making the noise, by the curb of the road. It was ol' Mr. Woodpecker gone over to the other side. From all the pictures I have seen on this sight it appears the deceased was a yellow belly sap sucker. There may be another in the area too. Will find out on my morning walk around the neighborhood in Northern Clinton Township, Michigan.

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed Downey, Hairy and Red-bellied at my suet feeders. Westland, MI.

Mic in Newport said...

I have enjoyed several pairs of Downies and an occasional Red-bellied woodpecker at my site feeders in my subdivision backyard in Newport for several years. This morning a wonderful surprise...a Hairy male who temporarily scared off a Downy & Bluejay but they seem to be co existing now, sharing time, both suet locations and my regular feeders.

Anonymous said...

Nature is not always by the book...for two years now, I have had several red-headed woodpeckers at my peanut-fruit feeder year round..I work 10 hours a day, but still manage a few views early am...Is this the new normal??? Have they moved to Benton Harbor??? Is it the St. Joe River lowlands that attracts them??

Anonymous said...

I live near a ravine in Benton Harbor as well, and I have several red headed woodpeckers year round...they love peanuts ....apparently...but they wait for my 7am visit to the feeder and then chase away all who dare challenge their breakfast...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the identification guide. We have had a Downy coming in for a week or so here just outside of Gladstone, MI. But we just were visited by a Hairy Woodpecker. We also have seen a Pileated Woodpeckers at our camp just north of Rapid River.