Woodpeckers in Michigan: Which One’s in Your Backyard?

Michigan is home to eight different woodpecker species. While all of these birds share a few common characteristics, they each have their own unique features that set them apart from the rest.

In this blog post, we will take a closer look at each of Michigan’s eight woodpecker species and discuss what makes them so special. We will also highlight which of these birds are most likely to be found in your backyard!

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What Makes Woodpeckers Unique

Woodpeckers are one of the most interesting bird species in North America. They are known for their distinctive calls, their ability to drill holes in trees, and their acrobatic movements. There are more than 20 different species of woodpecker in North America, and each has its own unique adaptations.

For example, the Downy Woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker in North America. The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest North American woodpecker, and it can be found in forests across the United States.

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker with its prominent beak and a huge 30-inch wingspan, was once one of the most common woodpeckers in North America, but it is now believed to be extinct.

These beautiful creatures are known for their bright plumage, their distinctive calls, and, of course, their habit of pecking at trees. But what sets woodpeckers apart from other birds is their anatomy.

Woodpeckers have special adaptations that allow them to withstand the force of their pecking without injuring themselves. For example, they have a shock-absorbent structure in their skull, which protects their brain from the impact. They also have long, stiff tails that act as a prop, preventing them from toppling over as they peck.

In Michigan, the most common woodpeckers are the Red-headed Woodpecker, the Downy Woodpecker, and the Hairy Woodpecker. Each of these species has its distinctive features, making them all worth looking for the next time you’re out bird watching.

Woodpeckers Throughout the World

There are around 200 species of woodpeckers worldwide, with around 20 different species found in the United States. Woodpeckers are generally divided into two main groups – true woodpeckers and pseudo-woodpeckers.

True woodpeckers have a long tongue that they use to extract insects from trees, while pseudo-woodpeckers have a shorter tongue and mainly eat fruits and berries.

Woodpeckers are found on every continent except Antarctica, and they come in a wide variety of colors and patterns.

Some of the more common species include the red-headed woodpecker, the downy woodpecker, and the hairy woodpecker. Woodpeckers are fascinating birds, and they play an important role in keeping forests healthy by eating insects that can harm trees.

Woodpeckers in Michigan

When it comes to woodpeckers, Michigan is home to quite a variety! Here is a quick list of 8 of the most common species. We’ll delve into more detail about each of them below.

The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest of the bunch and can be found in woods across the state. Its back is black with white spots, and its belly is white with black bars.

The Hairy Woodpecker is very similar in appearance to the Downy, but is slightly larger and has a longer bill. It can also be found in woods throughout Michigan.

The Northern Flicker is a bit different from other woodpeckers, with a brown back and barred sides. It’s usually found in open areas like fields and forest edges.

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker has, you guessed it, a red belly! It also has a black back and white stripes running down its head. This woodpecker likes to live in forests, but can also be found in urban areas.

The Red-Headed Woodpecker is one of the most striking Michigan woodpeckers, with its entirely red head. It can be found in woods and open areas across the state.

The Black-Backed Woodpecker is a small woodpecker with, you guessed it, a black back. It’s usually found in coniferous forests in the northern part of the state.

The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the largest woodpeckers in North America and is easily recognized by its long bill and bright red crest. It’s native to Michigan’s woodlands.

The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker gets its name from its habit of drinking sap from trees! It has a black back and yellow belly, with white stripes running down its head. This woodpecker prefers forested areas.

Red-Headed Woodpecker

red-headed woodpecker

The red-headed woodpecker is a handsome bird with a striking red head, black back, and white underparts. This medium-sized woodpecker is 8 to 10 inches in length with a wingspan of 15 to 17 inches. Males and females look alike with the exception of a red spot on the back of the male’s head. 

The red-headed woodpecker is found in woods and open areas throughout most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains. Michigan is home to several hundred nesting pairs of these beautiful woodpeckers.

Food and Feeding: 

red headed woodpecker food and feeding

The diet of the red-headed woodpecker consists mostly of insects, but can also include fruits, nuts, and seeds. Favorite foods include beetles, ants, grasshoppers, and caterpillars. This bird uses its long tongue to capture food items deep in crevices. In winter when insects are not available, the red-headed woodpecker will eat acorns and beech nuts.  


red headed woodpecker nesting

The nesting season for red-headed woodpeckers runs from May through July. The female will excavate a nest cavity in a dead tree or limb using her bill and feet. She lines the nest with Bark chips before laying 3 to 7 white eggs which she incubates for 12 to 14 days. 

Both parents help feed the young after they hatch. The young will fledge (leave) the nest 26 to 28 days after hatching but may stay with their parents for another month or so while they learn how to find food on their own.  

Does it migrate?

The red-headed woodpecker is a non-migratory bird meaning that it does not make long journeys south for the winter as many other North American birds do. Some birds may make shorter movements depending on food availability or changes in weather conditions but generally speaking, this bird stays put year-round. 

Where can I see one in Michigan? 

There are many ways you can attract this beautiful bird to your backyard including hanging a suet feeder or placing a platform feeder filled with sunflower seed hearts near some trees or old dead limbs. You may even get lucky enough to have one nest in your yard!

Downy Woodpecker

downy woodpecker - woodpeckers in Michigan

The Downy Woodpecker is a species of woodpecker found in North America. Let’s take a closer look at this little bird and some of its most interesting characteristics. 

Physical Characteristics 

downy woodpecker physical characteristics

Downy Woodpeckers are one of the smallest woodpeckers in North America, measuring in at around 6-7 inches in length and weighing between 0.5-0.75 ounces. It has a black body with white stripes running down its back, a white belly, and a small black tail. Its wings are mostly black with some white spotting. 

The male Downy Woodpecker has a red patch on the back of its head, while the female does not. 

Dietary Preferences 

downy woodpecker dietary preferences

Downy Woodpeckers primarily eat insects, although they will also eat berries and other fruits. You can attract this bird to your backyard by putting out suet or nesting boxes filled with sawdust or wood chips. 

Does It Migrate? 

The Downy Woodpecker is a year-round resident in Michigan and does not migrate south for the winter as some other bird species do. However, birds in northern parts of the state may move south to find food during particularly cold winters. 

Where Is It Found In Michigan? 

The Downy Woodpecker can be found throughout Michigan in both urban and rural areas as long as there are trees available for it to live in and forage for food. Some of the best places to see these birds are state and county parks, nature centers, forests, and your own backyard! 

The Downy Woodpecker is a common sight in Michigan all year round. This small bird is easily recognizable with its black and white coloring and small red patch on the head (if you’re lucky enough to spot a male).

Hairy Woodpecker

hairy woodpecker is found in Michigan

If you’re an avid backyard birdwatcher, then you’ve probably spotted a hairy woodpecker or two in your lifetime. But do you know everything there is to know about this fascinating bird species? Let’s take a closer look.

Physical Characteristics

hairy woodpecker physical appearance

The hairy woodpecker is a medium-sized bird that is native to North America. It ranges in length from 7 to 10 inches and has a wingspan of 13 to 17 inches. The adult male has a black back and white wings, while the adult female has a grayish-black back with white wing bars. 

Both sexes have a white breasts with black spots, as well as a distinctive black cap and bill. Immature birds are similar in appearance to adults, but they have buffy-white underparts.

Hairy woodpeckers are most commonly found in forests, but they can also be found in urban and suburban areas. They feed on insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates that they find beneath the bark of trees. 

They will also occasionally eat seeds, fruits, and nuts. Hairy woodpeckers typically mate for life and nest in tree cavities. 

Dietary Preferences

hairy woodpecker dietary preferences

Hairy woodpeckers feed on insects, larvae, and spiders that it finds by pecking holes into trees. This bird often hammers so hard that it will create small pieces of bark to fly off of the tree. It has also been known to eat berries, fruits, and nuts. The hairy woodpecker does not migrate, but it may move to lower altitudes in winter if there is a lack of food where it lives. 

Migration Patterns of the Hairy Woodpecker

In Michigan, the hairy woodpecker can be found in both deciduous and coniferous forests. Look for them near beech-maple, hemlock-hardwood, mixed hardwood-coniferous, and conifer swamps as well as upland mixed deciduous forests. These birds are most often seen in areas with large trees that provide plenty of opportunities for pecking! 

Hairy woodpeckers are not migratory birds; however, they may move to lower elevations in winter if food is scarce. In Michigan, hairy woodpeckers are most commonly found in the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula. However, they can also be found throughout the rest of the state during the breeding season. 

This species is just one of many fascinating birds that can be found right here in Michigan. So get out there and see what you can spot!

Pileated Woodpecker

pileated woodpecker

The mighty Pileated Woodpecker is one of the largest and most striking birds found in North America. With its glossy black plumage, striking white wing patches, and flaming red crest, the Pileated Woodpecker is a bird that is hard to miss! 

These impressive birds are a delight to watch as they deftly climb tree trunks in search of food, or hammer away at tree bark in search of insects. Let’s take a closer look at this fascinating backyard bird.

Physical Characteristics

The Pileated Woodpecker is a large bird, measuring 16-21 inches in length, with a wingspan of 26-30 inches. Males and females look similar, although males have a red streak on their lower faces, while females have a grayish-white streak. 

Both sexes have black plumage with white wing patches and a flaming red crest. Juvenile Pileated Woodpeckers look similar to adults, but their plumage is paler and their crests are not fully developed.

Dietary Preferences

pileated woodpecker dietary preferences

Pileated Woodpeckers are mainly insectivorous birds, and they use their long, powerful beaks to excavate wood in search of food. Their diet consists primarily of ants and wood-boring beetle larvae, but they will also eat fruits, nuts, and berries.

In winter months when insect prey is scarce, Pileated Woodpeckers will often feed on suet at backyard bird feeders.

Does it Migrate?

Pileated Woodpeckers are non-migratory birds, meaning they will typically stay in the same area year-round. In Michigan, Pileated Woodpeckers can be found in both deciduous and coniferous forests throughout the state. Look for these magnificent birds near dead or dying trees, as they are often attracted to these areas in search of food. 

Where is it found in Michigan:

These birds can be found throughout Michigan, although they are most common in the northern and western parts of the state. Look for them in areas with mature forests containing large trees. They are also sometimes seen in suburban areas with large yards containing lots of trees.

The Pileated Woodpecker is an impressive bird that is fun to watch and interesting to learn about. These large birds are a common sight in Michigan forests, and they can often be lured to backyard bird feeders in the winter months.

Northern Flicker

northern flicker is a woodpecker found in Michigan

The northern flicker is a species of woodpecker that is native to North America. This bird is well-known for its distinctive red breast and yellow belly. These birds are often seen in open habitats including parks and woodlands pecking at trees, logs, or the ground in search of food. 

Physical Characteristics

The northern flicker woodpecker is a large bird, measuring around 12 inches in length and weighing around 4 ounces. Males and females have similar plumage, although the male has a red mustache mark that the female does not have. 

Both sexes also have a black bib on their neck and a black tail with white bars. The northern flicker woodpecker gets its name from the spots of color (flickers) on its wings. These spots can be either red or yellow, depending on the subspecies. 

Dietary Preferences

northern flicker dietary preferences

The northern flicker woodpecker feeds primarily on ants and beetles, which it catches by drilling into tree trunks with its long, pointed tongue. These birds will also eat fruits, nuts, and seeds.

Northern flickers are one of the few species of woodpeckers that will readily eat berries. In fact, these birds are responsible for dispersing many types of fruits throughout North America! 

Migration Patterns

northern flicker migration patterns

The northern flicker woodpecker is a migratory bird. Each year, these birds migrate south for the winter months and return north again in the spring. Michigan is in the northern range for these birds, so you may be able to see one in your backyard if you live in the state! 

The northern flicker woodpecker is a gorgeous bird that is native to North America. These birds are well-known for their striking plumage and their love of ants and beetles. If you’re lucky, you may even spot one in your backyard here in Michigan!

Red Bellied Woodpecker

red-bellied woodpecker

The red-bellied woodpecker is a common sight in many Michigan yards. This little bird is easily identified by its bright red belly and the loud tapping sound it makes as it drills into trees looking for food. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the male’s red cap!

Physical Characteristics

red-bellied physical characteristics

The red-bellied woodpecker is a small to mid-sized bird, measuring between 9 and 10 inches in length with a wingspan of 13 to 16 inches. Males and females look similar, with the exception of the male’s red cap. These birds weigh between 1.4 and 2 ounces.  

In addition to its namesake red belly, red-bellied woodpeckers have black and white barred wings and a black back. Its bill is chisel-shaped and fairly long, adapted for drilling through the bark to find insects to eat. 

You may also notice that this bird has two toes pointing forwards and two pointing backwards – this gives them a better grip on tree trunks as they climb up, down, and around in search of food. 

Dietary Preferences

red-bellied dietary preferences

As mentioned above, the red-bellied woodpecker’s long bill is adapted for drilling into bark to find insects to eat. These birds are also known to eat berries, nuts, and fruits. In the springtime, you may even see them eating tree sap! 

Does It Migrate?  

The red-bellied woodpecker is a year-round Michigan resident (lucky us!). However, overcrowding can sometimes force these birds to migrate south in search of more space. 

Where It Is Found In Michigan  

The red-bellied woodpecker can be found throughout Michigan in both urban and rural areas. However, they seem to prefer areas with mixed forests containing both deciduous and evergreen trees. Keep an eye out for them next time you’re outside!  

The red-bellied woodpecker is a common backyard bird in Michigan. These little birds are easily identified by their bright red bellies and loud tapping sound.

Yellow Bellied Sapsucker

yellow bellied sapsucker

The yellow-bellied sapsucker is a species of woodpecker that is found in North America. This bird is known for its distinctive yellow belly, as well as its long tongue, which it uses to lap up sap from trees.

Physical Characteristics 

yellow bellied sapsucker physical characteristics

The yellow-bellied sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker that measures between 7 and 9 inches in length. It has a wingspan of 13 inches and weighs between 1 and 2 ounces. 

The male and female birds are similar in appearance, with the male having a red patch on the back of its head. Both sexes have black and white striped backs, as well as yellow bellies. 

Dietary Preferences 

yellow bellied sapsucker dietary preferences

As its name suggests, the yellow-bellied sapsucker feeds primarily on tree sap. It also eats insects, fruits, and berries. This bird often drills small holes in trees to access the sap beneath the bark. 

Does It Migrate? 

The yellow-bellied sapsucker is a migratory bird, meaning that it moves south for the winter and returns north in the spring. In Michigan, these birds can be found in woods and forests throughout the state. 

The yellow-bellied sapsucker is a fascinating bird that is sure to interest any backyard bird enthusiast. Be sure to keep an eye out for these creatures next time you’re out hiking in Michigan’s woods and forests!

Black Backed Woodpecker

black backed woodpecker is found in Michigan

The black-backed woodpecker is a birding favorite, and with good reason! This beautiful bird is relatively easy to identify thanks to its striking black and white plumage.

Physical Characteristics:

black backed woodpecker physical characteristics

The black-backed woodpecker typically measures between 7.5 and 9.5 inches in length, with a wingspan of 13 to 16 inches. Adult birds usually weigh between 2 and 3 ounces. Females are typically larger than males, but there is not a significant size difference between the sexes. 

The black-backed woodpecker gets its name from the large swath of black feathers that runs down its back. The rest of the bird’s plumage is mostly white, with some gray on the wings and tail. 

Both male and female birds have these distinctive markings, making them easy to identify in the field. Black-backed woodpeckers have long, pointed beaks that they use to drill holes in trees in search of food. 

They also have stiff tail feathers that they use as props when climbing Tree trunks 

Dietary Preferences:

The black-backed woodpecker is primarily an insectivore, feeding largely on beetles and their larvae. However, fruits and nuts make up a significant portion of their diet as well – up to 30% in some cases! In Michigan, favorites include beechnuts, acorns, and cherry fruits. 

Migration Patterns:

Black-backed woodpeckers are fairly sedentary birds, meaning they don’t migrate long distances very often. However, they may move short distances – up to several hundred miles – to find more favorable conditions if necessary.

For example, if insect populations crash in an area where a particular woodpecker is living, that bird may fly to a nearby forest where food is more plentiful. 

Where in Michigan?

Black-backed woodpeckers can be found throughout Michigan during the summer months. They’re most commonly found in mature forests with plenty of trees for them to drill holes into in search of food items like insects or acorns.  

The black-backed woodpecker is a striking bird that any backyard birder would be lucky to spot! These medium-sized birds are relatively easy to identify thanks to their distinctive black-and-white plumage.

How to Attract Woodpeckers to Your Backyard

Woodpeckers are an important part of the Michigan ecosystem, so it’s no surprise that many people want to attract them to their backyard. One of the best ways to attract woodpeckers is to provide them with a food source.

Woodpeckers enjoy eating insects, so try hanging a bird feeder filled with mealworms or crickets. You can also put out a suet feeder, which is a type of bird feeder that is specifically designed for woodpeckers.

In addition to providing food, you can also attract woodpeckers by creating a habitat that meets their needs. Woodpeckers need a place to nest and roost, so try installing a nesting box. By taking these simple steps, you can create an inviting space for woodpeckers and other wildlife.

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Conclusion: Woodpeckers in Michigan

Woodpeckers are fascinating birds that are sure to interest any backyard bird enthusiast, and we hope you’ve learned more about the characteristics and habits of woodpeckers in Michigan.

Be sure to keep an eye out for these creatures next time you’re out hiking in Michigan’s woods and forests!