Exploring Georgia Woodpeckers: A Birdwatching Guide About The Different Types

Black and White woodpeckers

Last Updated: March 28, 2021

Naturalists and avid bird watchers love how Georgia offers the perfect outdoor recreation and a glimpse into an impressive avian diversity.

It has various birding sites and a reputation for providing endless wildlife viewing opportunities.

As such…

You probably wonder if you can maximize your bird-watching journey with sightings of some woodpeckers in Georgia, right?

The good news is, these Georgia woodpeckers are among the most compelling birds having different species, which you can find in Georgia. Let’s discover more about them in the next section.

The Biodiversity Of Georgia Woodpecker Species

There are several spectacular birdwatching locations that you can find in Georgia, each having distinct attributes that attract residents and migrating birds alike. 

Most of these Georgia woodpeckers find refuge in beaver swamps, emerging pine groves, or thinned woods since they are famous for inhabiting various habitats.

Of the eight types of woodpeckers in Georgia, seven species are residents, while one species is a well-known snowbird, gracing us its presence during winter. 

Here are all eight of them, together with each of their characteristics and other notable details to help you identify and learn more about them:

1. Downy Woodpecker

The downy woodpecker is no more than a swallow's size and is among the smallest and next to the most plentiful bird in North America. It has black shoulders, white underparts, and streaks in the outermost tail; the male features a red crown, while the female; a black patch in the forehead. 

This woodpecker species is recognizable from the identical Hairy Woodpecker by its smaller bill and body size. Furthermore, you will typically see them probing trees and shrubs for cocoons, ants, and beetles with their long, sticky, barbed tongue. 

Downy Woodpeckers remain in the same after breeding but roam around to look for food sources in various habitats.

They prefer swampy aspen groves and moist bottomlands, adapting well in suburban parks and neighborhoods. It’s among the woodpeckers of Georgia having prominent voices, especially when feeding, although they are usually less visible due to their size until they start moving. 

They are generally omnivorous, a widespread species frequently visiting suet feeders.

Black and white woodpecker

2. Hairy Woodpecker

You will commonly encounter this tiny bird drilling its nests and nighttime roosts in dead trees or hitching up tree trunks probing the bark with a long, decurved beak to look for spiders and insects. 

It closely coincides with that of the smaller Downy Woodpecker, except that the Hairy Woodpecker has a heavier, longer bill.

This woodpecker plays an indispensable role in forest ecosystems by excavating holes that other species may use, mainly eating insects and their larvae, also seeds and nuts. 

It prefers to dwell in forests, using tree trunks as nesting and foraging sites, although this bird is also a familiar visitor to bird feeders.

Males and females look comparably, having white tummies, predominant back stripes, and faces and wings with noticeable black and white shades. 

The adult males, nevertheless, sport a red spot at the back of their crown. This bird is also well-known for its high-pitched voice, initially sounding like “keek” until it starts to sound like a series of notes.

3. Northern Flicker

Thousands of bird species today live in different habitats worldwide. Scientists nowadays reconstruct the avian evolution, explaining the Northern Flicker’s two subspecies, the eastern yellow-shafted flickers and the western red-shafted flickers. 

These two forms mostly differ in their wings and tails’ color due to carotenoid pigments in food and their head patterns.

These North American woodpeckers are excellent ground foragers, feeding typically on ants throughout the mating season and fruits during winter. 

Its kind thrives in various habitats offering open grounds like pastures, deserts, or any place abundant in ants. They happily share their nesting sites and roosting cavities with other species like the Pileated woodpecker.

When this woodpecker is not busy foraging on the ground, you will see them on horizontal branches feeding seeds, nuts, flies, beetles, and butterflies. They are generally vocal in their distinct vocal ranges.

Northern Flicker on a branch

4. Pileated Woodpecker

This bird is North America’s largest woodpecker, unmistakable with its striking large, tapering, bright-red crest. 

Some bird watchers would often hope to see an ivory-billed bird when scanning the pictures of woodpeckers in Georgia, but they would mostly see a Pileated woodpecker. 

It is hardly surprising at all since these two birds share a superficial resemblance.

A part of this bird’s fame is when it became the inspiration to the world-renowned cartoon character Woody Woodpecker. 

The Pileated will always be a part of most American birders’ list of distinctive bird species on the continent. This enormous woodpecker sporting a bushy crest and white stripes will stop you in your tracks no matter how many times you’ve seen one.

These birds are adaptable in their choice of habitats, dwelling in mixed forests, swamps, and suburban areas where there are large snags and fallen timber. 

The Pileated woodpecker likes feeding on insects in dead woods, with an audible hammering sound you can hear even at a considerable distance as they excavate their food.

Black woodpecker on a branch

5. Red-Bellied Woodpecker

A woodpecker larger than the average size bird of their kind, this red-bellied woodpecker sports a red-colored head with black and white plumages. 

Despite its name, this woodpecker’s belly-patch is pinkish or a faint orange. It is among the most popular birds in its range, with its striking plumage, scarlet crown, and zebra stripes across the upper body.

This woodpecker is common in oaks and prairies, mainly feeding on insects, acorns, fruits, berries, seeds, and nuts when in the wild.

On the contrary, it prefers suet, cracked corn, and peanuts when foraging in bird feeders. You will often hear their rolling, slightly quivering calls in forests, wooden suburbs, and throughout the neighborhood.

bird on a tree

6. Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

The red-cockaded woodpecker lives in old living pine trees, making its cavities there for roosting and nesting. 

Its reliance on old living pine trees significantly impacted their population when trees have been cut down for timber and cleared for farmland. Consequently, it made the red-cockaded woodpecker a federally endangered species.

This woodpecker is a highly communal species, breeding in small family groups or clans since they are also one of the chattiest woodpeckers in GA.

You will mostly see these woodpeckers working their way up and around pine trees, searching for insects and grubs, especially ants.

It’s almost impossible not to notice this bird’s striking features, having bold black and white patterns with a relatively long tail. Whenever you hear sharp, squeaky "kweek" calls or chattering notes, there’s possibly a red-cockaded woodpecker someplace nearby.

7. Red-Headed Woodpecker

This bird is among the few woodpecker species in which the adult male and female share identical looks. It is part of the most common woodpeckers in Georgia. 

A distinctive bird; the Red-Headed Woodpecker, with no regular migratory pattern, moves to different places depending on food source availability.

This woodpecker is recognizable with its black and white shade with a bright red hood.

You will often see these birds in golf courses because the environment closely resembles the oak savannahs, which they naturally inhabit. They prefer open wooded areas, along with dead limbs or snags, using their pointed bills to drill into trees when searching for food and nesting sites.

These woodpeckers are adept aerial insect hunters, so they spend more time in the air than most North American woodpeckers. Moreover, they have a remarkable skill of storing their food, hiding seeds, nuts, or insects under the bark, a rare trait for any woodpecker species.

8. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

This bird is a nomadic woodpecker with an intriguing reputation for being troublesome. 

You will mostly encounter this species chiseling out its home in early spring or drilling out trees to drink the sap.

The yellow-bellies prefer lines of wells along with the hummingbirds, and they’re not avid visitors of bird feeders, too.

They’re effortlessly identifiable with their canary yellow underparts, bold shades of black, red, and white. These sapsuckers also have stockier bodies than a wryneck, thick necks, and stiff tail feathers they use as a prop when climbing tree trunks.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of woodpeckers are in Georgia?

There are eight types of woodpeckers in Georgia, seven of them are residents around the metro, and the eighth one is a visitor and an endangered species. Here are all eight of them as described in the previous section:

  • Downy woodpecker
  • Hairy woodpecker
  • Northern flicker
  • Pileated woodpecker
  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • Red-cockaded woodpecker
  • Red-headed woodpecker
  • Yellow-bellied sapsucker

Are woodpeckers protected in Georgia?

Most people refer to woodpeckers as destructive birds due to their loud noises and attacking wood structures. However, some of them are species in danger of extinction; hence, they are under the federal government’s protection of the Migratory Bird Act.

Is it illegal to shoot a woodpecker in Georgia?

Controlling woodpecker damage is subject to compliance with Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. 

You may only control them lethally once you secure a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit, which they only approve under extreme situations. Otherwise, you are accountable to a penalty of up to $100,000 or a year of jail time.

Final Thoughts

Georgia has extensive pine forests, several lakes, scrubby fields, and hiking trails that lure different bird species. 

You can even find large ponds, wetlands, and woodlands hosting summer breeders. So if you're looking for the perfect birding spot to witness these gorgeous woodpeckers of Georgia, your travel destination list should never be without this state.

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