Michigan Woodpeckers: A Simplified Guide In Understanding The Diverse Species

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Last Updated: March 29, 2021

Woodpeckers are a family of near-passerines famous for whacking their heads against wood without suffering a concussion. Their thick skulls, powerful bills, and robust bones make them natural engineers.

They work at tree trunks that provide a home for other birds like chickadees, bluebirds, martins, and more.

What's more:

A few of them migrate depending on weather conditions and food availability. The vast majority are passive, spreading before their first winter except for Magellanic woodpeckers, mostly staying with their parents for up to four years.

Today, there are more than three hundred different woodpeckers worldwide, and you can find eight of these species in Michigan.

So…

If you find yourself having an explicit fascination with woodpeckers in Michigan, then keep reading as we discover more about these diverse and exciting birds from North America.

Michigan Woodpecker Species

These woodpeckers of Michigan came from different species ranging from the year-round residents to the migrating ones. Here are eight of them:

1. Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides Villosus)

This woodpecker is around nine inches long and typically weighs 1.5 to 3.5 ounces. It is a less common species and a very versatile bird, which is why you'll mostly see them in urban gardens, parks, and forests. 

This kind of species feeds on beetles, spiders, caterpillars, conifer seeds, and nuts; it also drinks leaking sap from wells or pecks into sugar canes for its juice.

The Hairy woodpecker has an appearance that is closely similar to a Downy woodpecker, except that they are bigger and have a lengthier bill. It seemingly has an erect posture, a black and white striped pattern, white abdominal area, and patch down its back. You can quickly identify a male hairy woodpecker for its red nape patch, which the female ones lack.

2. Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates Pubescens)

It is a woodpecker species more common in winter, has a large head, short tail, and a black and white feather identical to the hairy woodpecker. 

downy woodpecker

The Downy is the smallest type of woodpecker, around six inches long, weighing 0.7 to 1.0 ounces, and wingspan ranging from 9 to 12 inches. This woodpecker has a short bill, with the males having a red mark at the back of their head.

It is a non-migratory bird, a typical backyard feeder visitor, and uses its small size to acquire food sources inaccessible to other types of woodpeckers in Michigan. This species inhabits open woodlands, streams, suburbs, and parks, feeding on insects, berries, sunflower seeds, and grains.

3. Northern Flicker (Colaptes Auratus)

Unlike the other Michigan woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker is not fond of hammering trees. You can identify this large, tan, ten-inch long woodpecker with its dark spots, round head, long black tail, and a slightly curved bill. Those with bright yellow underwing are migratory eastern woodpeckers, while those with red shafts are western woodpeckers migrating shorter distances.

Northern Flickers are ground feeders, prefer ants, berries, and seeds, and inhabit tropical mixed forests, swamps, gardens, meadows, mangroves, and residential areas. Moreover, these species are also frequent backyard feeder visitors, like sitting on thin, level branches and drums at trees to communicate with others.

4. Black-Backed Woodpecker (Picoides Arcticus)

This nine-inch long, black woodpecker is famous for its white markings in the outer feathers, a sharp white stripe on the face, and long grey bill. The males are easily recognizable with their yellow central crown, while the females have black crowns. They like hunting on charred tree trunks, where their dark feathers blend well and where they look for beetles from dying trees.

The overall population of these woodpeckers in MI is remarkably stable, increasing and decreasing slightly with some habitat changes depending on feeding conditions. These birds can exceptionally stand the winter weather, love digging, and prefer creating new nests instead of using the same nest twice.

5. Red-Bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes Carolinus)

These pale, medium-sized Michigan woodpeckers are one of the most common species and are also found in Missouri. Despite their name, the shade of their bellies ranges from pinkish to that of faint orange.

They have black and white stripes on their backs, with males having red shades extending to the crown, while females have buffy heads and red napes.

One of the Red-Bellied woodpecker’s distinct behaviors is storing food between tree cracks and loves eating fruit, nuts, and insects.

The orchards, woodlands, groves, and suburban areas are some of this woodpecker’s natural habitat, perching mostly on large branches and tree trunks. They have loud vocals, and you’ll hear them call mostly during spring and summer.

6. Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus Pileatus)

The Pileated is a large woodpecker and year-round residents that sometimes roam far from nesting grounds. Contrary to other woodpeckers in Michigan or even in Wisconsin, this species is timid, so they are afraid of being near humans and makes it challenging to attract them to backyard feeders. They feed on nuts, fruits, and insects, habitat adaptable, but prefer nesting on larger trees.

pileated woodpecker

Some of their characteristics include a black body, a pattern resembling zebra stripes in the head and neck area, a red crest, and a long bill. Additionally, they make loud drumming sounds to lure their partners and also to protect their territories. Their robust beaks can also powerfully create deep holes that can cause small trees to break in halves.

7. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus Varius)

The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker is the most migratory of the woodpecker species and can be an expert in drilling holes in birch and maple trees. It likes feeding on insects in tree sap using its lengthy bill and brush-tipped tongue. The sapsucker also feeds on berries and fruits at all seasons, mostly sitting on tree branches for an extended period while feeding.

sapsucker woodpecker

This well-known woodpecker in Georgia is easily recognizable for its distinct black and white shade with red plumage around its beak and yellow chest marks. The grownup male’s crown and throat are red, while the mature female has a red crown and white throat. The young sapsuckers have an olive-brown shade and have vertical white markings on their wings.

8. Red-Headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes Erythrocephalus)

These eye-catching woodpeckers, also found as far south as Florida, have stunning qualities, including their black and white body in bold patterns and a crimson head. Both mature males and females have the same features, while the young ones have brownish heads during their first year. These Michigan woodpecker species prefer to inhabit extensive forests and dislike highly populated areas.

When people take pictures of woodpeckers in Michigan, you can be sure that this beautiful woodpecker is always there. However, this species currently experiences a steep decline in population due to competition and potential loss of nesting grounds. They like feeding on insects, small rodents, seeds, and berries, thriving in pine farms and swamps.

Interesting Facts About Woodpeckers

Depending on species, most woodpeckers have an average lifespan ranging from four to twelve years.

There is a broad range of habitat needs for every woodpecker species. Some woodpeckers show a preference for broadleaf forests, some like cone-bearing forests, and others for certain tree species.

Generally, woodpeckers are bold and competitive, especially during the season of reproduction. Different species display varying characteristics and habits depending on their morphology.

A woodpecker typically spends most of its day hunting for food sources.

All woodpeckers reproduce in cavities having spacious vertical chambers.

Most male and female woodpeckers pair exclusively. It means they mate, raise their young ones together, and spend time together.

Female woodpeckers lay two to five eggs.

A woodpecker's brain is inside its skull with no cerebrospinal fluid.

Aside from having unique muscles, a dense skull, and a strong beak, a woodpecker also has a third inner eyelid to prevent the retina from tearing.

Woodpeckers like clinging onto trees. Their tough tail feathers provide them the necessary support to hold themselves on a tree stump with ease.

Attracting Woodpeckers In Your Backyard

There's more than just offering food sources to get a woodpecker's attention and have it visit your backyard. Here are some tips on how you can attract these stunning woodpeckers:

Feed Them Right

Ensure a consistent and sufficient supply of their essential needs, and one of these needs is food. The woodpeckers love seeds and nuts, so it will be an excellent idea to have a variety of these in your feeders. A woodpecker is also a sucker for suet cakes; you can create one to entice it to visit your backyard.

Use The Perfect Feeder

Choose the right kind of woodpecker feeder that’s specific to their needs. You may try a hopper feeder, a unique suet feeder, or even a ball feeder, which woodpeckers will find interesting enough to visit or investigate. Place more than just one feeder around the backyard to minimize contact with other birds while simultaneously feeding.

Give Them Places To Rest

Bring the diversity of a woodpecker's natural habitat into your garden. Woodpeckers like nesting in cavities, so they will appreciate it if you can create a birdhouse or replicate a nesting box on a tree. A thoughtful perching space is something the woodpeckers can't resist as well as a snag from an old tree. The tree snags are excellent food sources.

red headed woodpecker

Provide Fresh Water

Make your backyard a welcoming haven for woodpeckers by having private birdbaths. These woodpeckers are vulnerable to human disturbance, so I’m sure they will enjoy some privacy. Have a birdbath at floor level in a quiet area where perches are nearby to make them feel more comfortable using it for bathing and drinking.

Keep The Area Clean

Maintain the birdhouse’s cleanliness to avoid parasites from breeding in it and make it an inviting space for woodpeckers to visit. Use gloves to check any debris or signs of mold and mildew. A homemade diluted bleach solution or unscented dish soap with warm water can be a good option for cleaning birdhouses.

Effective Ways To Prevent & Manage Woodpecker-Caused Damages

So, let’s say you successfully attracted these woodpeckers to your backyard. How then do you plan to minimize the conflicts that woodpeckers can cause you or other homeowners?

Woodpeckers are remarkably stunning; however, their drumming habits can sometimes cause a disturbance. There are several instances of woodpeckers attacking wooden homes and drilling a hole into them. Here are a few pointers you can consider to prevent these problems from happening:

  • Use deterrents to reduce the problem. One effective way of doing this is by placing a metal hardware cloth in damage-susceptible areas, installing a plastic net at the sides, and using some reflective streamers.
  • Prevent woodpeckers from injuring a valuable tree in your garden with some homemade remedies like wrapping the bark with a burlap and using a plastic net. You can also apply sticky repellants on the bark or use reflective streamers.
  • Remove decaying trees in your yard or anything that will invite these woodpeckers. Once you deprive them of a place to nest and feed, they will start looking for sanctuary in other areas.

FAQ About Michigan Woodpeckers

What kind of woodpeckers live in Michigan?

The eight types of woodpeckers in Michigan are the following:

  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Black-backed Woodpecker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Red-headed Woodpecker

Do woodpeckers migrate in Michigan?

Only a few woodpeckers in Michigan do seasonal migration, specifically during winter, because their vast majority are passive. Aside from the weather, food availability is also a reason for migrating woodpeckers. However, some of their species look for lower breeding areas in winter, but they opt to remain if there’s an adequate supply of food sources.

Is it illegal to shoot a woodpecker in Michigan?

The top woodpecker species that cause most homeowners trouble in this state are the hairy, downy, Pileated, and sometimes, even the Northern Flicker. These birds have the reputation of drilling holes in most homes in the Northern part of Michigan. Nevertheless, since they’re under the protection of the federal law’s 1918 Treaty Act, it is illegal to shoot or kill them.

And before I wrap this thing up, let’s have some fun watching this male pileated woodpecker endlessly tapping away: 🙂


Final Thoughts

In conclusion, whether you're a fan of Woody Woodpecker, fond of attracting birds, or you find woodpeckers in Michigan interesting, we hopefully provided you with meaningful information. These woodpeckers can be very advantageous for your property since they can catch insects or signal the presence of damaging pests.

A pest-free surrounding is a healthy environment.

May all these provide you with more knowledge about these woodpeckers and make bird watching more enjoyable for you. Moreover, it might also help you decide whether you will invite and keep them in your yard.

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