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Missouri Woodpeckers: Top 7 Species (Exciting Facts)

missouri woodpecker - featured image

With the number of conservation areas, immense reservoir lakes, and a breathtaking birding trail, it is hardly surprising that bird lovers find Missouri to be an enchanting place.

It grants every conservationist, birdwatcher, and wildlife expert a remarkable opportunity to observe and learn from birds’ daily activities.

This state is a welcoming haven to a remarkable number of bird species. 


Among the hundreds of eye-catching birds in this state, the list will never be without the gorgeous Missouri woodpeckers. So, if you’re one who’s fascinated with their existence, then keep reading as we discover more about them.

What Attracts Birds & Birdwatchers To Missouri

You will encounter various protected birding spots, excellent grasslands, and many pine groves throughout the state, making it an attractive place for birds and birders alike. 

Birds of every kind, including sparrows, flycatchers, warblers, and grackles, enjoy all the different areas that Missouri has for them.

You will sometimes hear a series of notes or some harmonious duet of singing birds, even witness birds of prey while canoeing on the Black River. 

These feathered friends are frequent backyard visitors, especially with the bird population that shifts with the season. Let’s not forget about some woodpeckers of Missouri that you might see in open woodland in summer.

As the world continues to advance in technology, many of us crave to experience being this close to nature. So even if we're not precisely nature lovers, it will be hard not to notice a bird's song resounding through the air on a frosty morning. 

To the same extent, it will still stop you in your tracks to see birds buzzing their wings mightily while in flight.

All of these and more gave Missouri a distinctive appeal to birdwatchers globally. It appears to be an enchanting place that offers a substantial learning experience for birding newbies and improves ornithologist experts’ birding skills.

The Diversity In Missouri Woodpecker Species

There are so many woodpeckers in MO, each belonging to a different species. With their captivating colors, they are always pleasurable to watch, especially during winter. 

These woodpeckers bestow color to an alternatively dreary season like winter. Among the several types of woodpeckers in Missouri are the following:

1. Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Making that throaty sound like "chuck, chuck, chuck" is the prevalent yet wild, red-bellied woodpecker. Contrary to its name, this bird has a faint shade, not a red belly. You identify the male with its red forehead, while the female has a red nape. 

red-bellied woodpecker

This woodpecker’s versatility allows them to thrive in forests, river bottoms, or anywhere where mature trees are abundant.

It interacts energetically and, as is customary, resorts to migrating southbound when there's a shortage in acorns during winter. 

Unlike other species, it doesn't dig out trees to forage insects and likes eating berries, seeds, and nuts. Additionally, it has become quite a widespread species in the past decades.

2. Red-Headed Woodpecker

When you hear some rapid drumming, you might just see this woodpecker circling a dead oak tree. It’s almost impossible for this bird's presence to go unnoticed because of its crimson head, bluish-gray bill, black upperparts with bluish shine, and white patches on its wings.

The red-headed woodpecker thrives in grasslands, forest edges, and river bottoms; when there’s adequate supply, it forages insects and nuts for later consumption. 

Their fancy for sunflower seeds will frequently lead them to backyard woodpecker feeders, and they don’t mind flocking in a large group when there are leftover foods.

3. Downy Woodpecker

Studies show that the tiny downy woodpecker had pigment development to match the hairy woodpecker, except that it has a shorter bill. It gains more respect from the other birds to be mistaken for the larger, more dominant species. 

This species, also a common Michigan woodpecker, features a mix of white and black hues with a red patch on its nape and a spotted tail.

You will commonly see downy woodpeckers in suburbs, gardens, parks, woodlands, and even frequenting backyard feeders. 

Further, It is the only North American woodpecker that inhabits reedbeds during winter and calls in two ways; with a sharp “pik” sound and an even more piercing nickering sound. This bird prefers vegetation, seeds, and fruits, depending on the season.

4. Hairy Woodpecker

The hairy woodpecker is the lookalike of the noticeably smaller and short-billed downy woodpecker. Among the most common challenges that birdwatchers have is telling the difference between these two woodpecker species, the hairy and the downy woodpecker.

You can tell them apart by comparing the hairy’s longer bill with the downy’s shorter bill, the hairy’s large body with the downy’s dinky one. Likewise, their voices differ; the hairy woodpecker has a louder and sharper call. 

It dwells in isolated woodlots, urban gardens, and open areas, feeding on insects, conifer seeds, and fruits, sometimes peck on sugarcanes for its juice.

5. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

This woodpecker species possesses most woodpeckers’ classic shape and a yellow belly, which is how it got its name.

It has a remarkable plumage in black and white shades, a scarlet head, and white markings on its face and back. You will typically see its presence resting against a tree with a stiff tail to maintain balance.

Contrary to other species, this woodpecker does not visit backyard feeders, and it’s one of two entirely migratory woodpeckers in Northern America. Although this bird is primarily a sap consumer, it also likes feeding on various fruits, suet, and tree buds.

6. Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is a colossal bird of its kind. 

You could never confuse this with any other bird due to its distinct appearance having a black body, a raised red crest, and bold stripes on the face. 

This bird communicates using different rhythms like a double tap when a promising nest site is nearby and plays a foundational role in ecosystems by keeping termites at bay.

Furthermore, this woodpecker is a forest-inhabiting species that can also thrive in mixed forests, woodlots, and parks. It essentially looks for trees with healthy outer wood but rotten inside to forage carpenter ants, wild fruits, suet, and nuts.

Most pictures of woodpeckers in Missouri will have this bird; if you look closely, you will notice how the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker is the Pileated species. It continues to attract many people across its range, watching and taking its photograph.

7. Northern Flicker

When you encounter a woodpecker perching vertically on trees but spending most of its time on the ground, it is most likely the Northern Flicker. 

northern flicker - woodpecker

Like a Pileated Woodpecker, the Northern Flicker is also an enormous bird nearly the crow’s size. This species is widespread across Northern America, exhibiting different appearances depending on its origin. 

The birds from the East and North have yellow shafts on their wings, while those from the West have reddish wing linings. The color variation is due to carotenoids which the flickers process differently.

It looks for food by pecking the trees’ sides but mainly searches dead barks or leaf litters for ants, its favorite prey.

This woodpecker species is also adaptable to various habitats with open spaces like city parks, pastures, woodlands, and forest edges.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of woodpeckers are in Missouri?

The different types of woodpeckers in Missouri are the following:

  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • Red-headed woodpecker
  • Downy woodpecker
  • Hairy woodpecker
  • Yellow-bellied Woodpecker
  • Pileated woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker

Is it illegal to shoot a woodpecker in Missouri?

Due to the significant role that woodpeckers play in our ecosystems, they are under the migratory, nongame birds classification. 

These birds are in the protective custody of state as well as federal laws. It is best to consult the state’s provision on wildlife protection if you think about hunting or having conflicts with these species.

downy woodpecker

Final Thoughts

Woodpeckers are one out of the many common birds you are likely to see in Missouri. It’s not surprising to encounter an abundance of these Missouri woodpeckers considering the increase in their population in recent decades, and the state is rich in bird-friendly habitats.

With Missouri being a friendly sanctuary for migratory and resident birds and a hidden treasure for birders, there’s a greater likelihood of close encounters with these captivating creatures. 

It makes birding an excellent reason to get outdoors, be more active, and discover wildlife with all the fun and exciting adventures it has to offer.

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