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Maine Woodpeckers: 9 Common Species In The Pine Tree State

Written by Garrett Hayes

Last updated on May 3rd, 2024
Woodpecker boring holes on tree bark

The drumming and drilling of woodpeckers are among the most recognizable sounds of spring and fall in Maine. While you can easily recognize them by ear, however, they can be confusing to identify visually. 

One of the most common characteristics that Maine woodpeckers share is that they have a strong beak, which is what they use for tapping tree trunks and hunting food. Beyond such, these amazing birds can have a varied appearance, such as in terms of size and coloration. 

If you need help identifying woodpeckers in The Pine Tree State, we got you!

The Most Common Woodpeckers in Maine 

1. Downy Woodpecker 

Downy Woodpecker

With a length of fewer than seven inches, the downy woodpecker is the smallest in Maine. Not to mention, it is also one of the most common species not just in the state but in the country. 

The first thing that you will notice in downy woodpeckers is their chisel-like and straight bill. It is a bit smaller compared to other woodpeckers. Nonetheless, it is as strong, allowing the birds to drill trees. 

Downy woodpeckers have a black and white coloration. They have white outer tail feathers. Males will have a red patch on the head. 

No need to go far in Maine if you want to see downy woodpeckers in action. They are frequent backyard visitors. Lure them with bird feeders filled with acorns, grains, and berries. 

Their diet, however, is mostly insects. It will eat beetles, ants, gall wasps, and caterpillars. 

The habitats of downy woodpeckers in Maine are varied. In most cases, you will find them in deciduous forests. However, they have adapted to humans, so you can see them even in orchards, backyards, and parks. 

2. Hairy Woodpecker 

Hairy Woodpecker

As it is typical with other woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers have a black and white pattern. A large white patch at the back is highly visible. 

Hairy woodpeckers are often confused with downy woodpeckers. One of the key differences is the size of the bill. The bill of a downy woodpecker is almost one-third the size of its head. Meanwhile, the bill of a hairy woodpecker is almost the same length as its head. 

Also, hairy woodpeckers are larger than downy woodpeckers. Because of this, you will commonly find hairy woodpeckers in larger trees. 

If you want to see a hairy woodpecker in Maine, some of the best places to check are forests, river groves, and woodlands. They thrive in coniferous, deciduous, and forests with large trees. 

Up to 75% of the diet of a hairy woodpecker includes insects, specifically wood-boring beetles, bark beetles, and ants. 

3. Pileated Woodpecker 

Pileated Woodpecker 

The pileated woodpecker is the biggest woodpecker you will find in Maine. It has a maximum length of 19.3 inches and its wings can extend up to 29.5 inches. 

Most of the body of the pileated woodpecker is black with a white strip. Meanwhile, when it is flying, the wings have a white underside. Males will have a red stripe on their cheeks. 

Carpenter ants are the favorite foods of pileated woodpeckers. They dig large and distinctive rectangular holes in trees to forage. The holes can end up being too large that they will weaken the structure of the tree. 

As for the habitat, you will see pileated woodpeckers in both deciduous and coniferous mature forests. The most important is to have a steady supply of ants and beetle larvae. 

Pileated woodpeckers will nest in dead trees. They build new nests every year and the ones they left behind will be used by other bird species. 

4. Red-Bellied Woodpecker 

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The name of the red-bellied woodpecker can be confusing. Most of you will probably expect that its belly is bright red. Nonetheless, it is very pale and almost unnoticeable. 

Red-bellied woodpeckers are some of the most beautiful birds you will see in Maine. The back has black and white stripes. It also has a red cap. 

Another notable characteristic of the red-bellied woodpecker is its barbed and sticky tongue, which allows it to catch insects more efficiently.  

Woodlands and forests are the natural habitats of red-bellied woodpeckers. They are more common in locations with oak, hickory, and pine. 

Expect red-bellied woodpeckers to visit backyard bird feeders as well, especially if there are peanuts, suet, and sunflower seeds. They are also frequent visitors to hummingbird feeders with sugar water. 

Red-bellied woodpeckers are monogamous. They will breed once a year, and once they build a nest, they are territorial birds. 

5. Red-Headed Woodpecker 

Red-Headed Woodpecker

As it is named, the most prominent feature of a red-headed woodpecker is its red head. The rest of its body, meanwhile, has bold black and white markings. 

A variety of insect species makes up to one-third of the diet of red-headed woodpeckers. They will feast on grasshoppers, ants, and crickets. Wild and cultivated fruits are also enjoyed by these woodpecker species, including apples, cherries, pears, and strawberries. 

While you can find red-headed woodpeckers in Maine, they are not as common as other birds. They are in the state only to breed and will move south in the winter. 

Your best chances of spotting red-headed woodpeckers would be in open woodlots, pine savannahs, and swamps with dead timber. 

With the right backyard feeder, attracting red-headed woodpeckers is easy. Suet feeders are good to have. Putting different kinds of seeds in the backyard, as well as fruits like apples, is also an effective strategy. 

6. Black-Backed Woodpecker 

Black-Backed Woodpecker

Guess the most common physical feature that you will find in this bird! The name itself is the clue!

One of the first things that you will notice in this woodpecker in Maine is the inky black back, which is referenced by its name. More so, it has a white underpart with fine black barring on its flanks. 

The head of a black-backed woodpecker is almost all black However, males will have a yellow patch on their crown, which you will not find in females.

The most common place where you will see a black-backed woodpecker foraging would be in burnt and dead trees. They will spend a long time on one spot as they excavate and look for wood-boring beetle larvae. 

The habitats of black-backed woodpeckers include boreal and montane conifer forests, including those that have been burnt up to eight years ago. When there are infrequent fires., you will see them in those with outbreaks of bark beetle.  

7. American Three-Toed Woodpecker 

American Three-Toed Woodpecker

Both male and female American three-toed woodpeckers will have black and white barring on their bodies. The main difference between the sexes is that males will have a yellow crown while females have a black crown with white streaks. 

The best place to look for an American three-toed woodpecker is in a place with conifer trees. They love being in disturbed areas, including forests that have been damaged by floods, windstorms, and fires. 

When foraging, American three-toed woodpeckers will chip the bark of dead and dying trees. This will let them expose the insects beneath, which will serve as their food sources. 

While they eat mostly insects like moth caterpillars, they are also known for feasting on fruits and sucking sap. 

8. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker 

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

The yellow-bellied sapsucker, as its name suggests, relies on sugary sap as its food source. It will make horizontal lines on host trees to ensure continuous sap production. 

In terms of its appearance, one of the physical identifiers among yellow-bellied sapsuckers is the vertical stripe that runs down to its side. It has a red crown surrounded by black. The striped face is black and white. And of course, they have a yellowish belly. 

Males and females are almost alike. One of the subtle differences between the two is that males have a red throat while a female will have a yellow throat. 

The only time that you will see yellow-bellied sapsuckers in Maine is during the breeding season. 

Like most of the typical woodpeckers on this list, you will commonly find yellow-bellied sapsuckers in young deciduous forests, especially those with growing trees. 

9. Northern Flicker 

Northern Flicker

Wrapping up our list of Maine woodpeckers is the Northern flicker. 

Compared to the other species on this list, northern flickers are different because they are the only ones to sport a gray-brown plumage. Others have a black and white coloration.

You will find two distinct varieties – yellow-shafted and red-shafted. The difference can be spotted in the color of their wing shafts. 

The best way to find northern flickers is to look on the ground, making them distinct from most members of the woodpecker family. They look for beetles and ants on the floor while digging dirt using their mighty bills. 

If you want to attract northern flickers in your backyard, it is hard to go wrong with bird feeders, especially if you fill them with peanut butter and suet. 

It will also help if you do not clear dead or dying trees in the backyard. The northern flicker will excavate these trees in search of insects they can eat. 

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Frequently Asked Questions 

What types of woodpeckers are in Maine? 

You will find nine woodpecker species in Maine, including the following: downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, red-headed woodpecker, black-backed woodpecker, American three-toed woodpecker, yellow-bellied sapsucker, and northern flicker. 

What attracts woodpeckers to your yard? 

Attracting woodpeckers to your yard is possible by having food and water. Installing backyard feeders is a good idea, which you should load with suet, sunflower seeds, berries, fruits, and peanuts, among other foods that make up a woodpecker’s diet. You can also attract woodpeckers by having dying and dead trees, which they will excavate. 

What time of year are woodpeckers most active? 

Woodpeckers are most active in the spring. This is when they engage in drumming, which is a way of communicating with other species. They will make a steady and loud rhythm to show that they are guarding their territory. More so, this is also their way of attracting a mate.  


With the humid and continental climate in Maine, it is an ideal habitat for a wide array of woodpeckers. These birds are beneficial because they help control insect pests, so many homeowners appreciate having them in their backyard. 

Are there other woodpeckers in Maine that you would like to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.

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