Woodpeckers In Pennsylvania: Comprehensive Guide & The Best Places To Spot Their Species

young and big woopeckers on a tree

Last Updated: May 16, 2021

It’s no wonder that it’s so easy to spot woodpeckers in Pennsylvania. The state’s diverse geography beckons woodpeckers to call it home. You’ll find a multitude of woodpeckers settled in the vast forests, mountains, and wetlands of the state.  

Officially... 

There are seven types of woodpeckers in Pennsylvania. But that changes when the black-backed woodpecker occasionally arrives in winter from the north, bumping the number up to eight.  

If you’ve been looking for an in-depth resource on the woodpeckers of Pennsylvania, then you’ve arrived at the right place. Here’s a comprehensive guide to these fascinating creatures and the best places to spot them.

The Many Woodpeckers of Pennsylvania (PA)

1. Red-Headed Woodpeckers

Black and white bird with red headRed-headed woodpeckers have lengths between 7.5 to 9.1 inches, an average weight of 2.5 ounces, and a wingspan of 16.5 inches. They live up to 9 years. 

These woodpeckers have bright red heads, making them easy to spot from a distance. Their wings are colored in large black and white patches, while their undersides are white. 

They like to settle in cavities in non-living wood, in places that amply offer them insects that include those found in the air, and also beech nuts and acorns. 

If you want to spot them, a forest in a warmer area is the best place.

If you set out in search of red-headed woodpeckers in Pennsylvania (PA) and hear a drumming noise, then you’ve likely found them because that’s the noise they make then they hammer trees for food!

But if you happen to live in or near a more natural place and have yard and bird feeders, you may sometimes spot this woodpecker if it finds your area more nature-like than its own. 

Red-headed woodpeckers have a short migration pattern so they stick to one place for a long time. When winter arrives, red-headed woodpeckers store as much food as they can in tree cavities in order to survive.


2. Red-Bellied Woodpeckers

red crested woodpeckerRed-bellied woodpeckers have a length of 9.6 inches, wingspans of 13 to 16.5 inches, and weigh on average 2.65 ounces. They live up to 12 years and settle in dense forests that supply them with abundant food such as insects but also nuts and berries. 

You may be a little annoyed to find out that red-bellied woodpeckers aren’t actually red-bellied; their bellies are pale pink in color. So, is this bird red-colored at all? Yes! They have bright red-colored heads! 

Also, their wings are adorned with a black and white pattern, which is also found on their tails- though about half of them are mostly white. Parts of their wingtips are also white, but this can be seen only when they’re flying. 

If you go to any densely wooded areas in Pennsylvania, you’re likely to spot the red-bellied woodpecker. You can do this at any time of the year, though they are most often observed during mating season in winter. 

A unique feature of red-bellied woodpeckers’ behavior is fidelity. They’re known for their monogamy; these birds even pick out nests together once they find mates.

Another behavioral feature, which it shares with the red-headed woodpecker, is storing food for the winter months.


3. Black-Backed Woodpeckers

Bird with black back and white bellyBlack-backed woodpeckers have lengths of 9.1 inches, average weights of 2.5 ounces, and wingspans between 15.8 to 16.5 inches. Their life expectancy is 8 years. 

These birds have yellow crowns, with black backs, and paler undersides. They feed on wood-boring beetles, fruit, and nuts.

You’ll find this Pennsylvania woodpecker species in any place that has deadwood trees. However, black-backed woodpeckers may also nest in live trees. To spot them, look for areas that have both dead and live wood. 

Black-backed woodpeckers don’t move to new places much as they are nonmigratory.

Therefore, they can be spotted all year around. However, if it’s cold enough then they might fly to warmer areas. 

More so, because they dig deep into dead trees to find larvae, black-backed woodpeckers stay in the same place for a lengthy amount of time. However, they tend to change nests on a yearly basis.


4. Northern Flickers

gray and white bird on a branchThese woodpeckers of Pennsylvania measure between 11.0 to 12.2 inches in length, weigh around 8.6 ounces and have wingspans of 16.5 to 20.1 inches. Their lifespan is up to 9 years. 

Among the woodpeckers of Pennsylvania, Northern flickers have a unique appearance. Their bodies are greyish brown, and their backs and chests are covered with black patterns. More so, their wings’ undersides are more grey in color. 

Northern flickers are among the most commonly found types of Pennsylvania woodpeckers, though are migratory. They live in wooded areas and local trees, especially near open spaces. 

Their diet comprises insects, seeds, nuts, and fruit. In many instances, these birds are also spotted sitting on the ground in search of ants and beetles. If you hear a ringing call, then it’s likely that a northern flicker is near you. 

As parents, these birds are highly cooperative. They share feeding and nurturing tasks with their partners.

Drumming on things is the way northern flickers communicate- even with female woodpeckers nearby!


5. Hairy Woodpeckers

black and white woodpecker clinging on a treeThis woodpecker has a length between 7.1 to 10.2 inches, weighs between 1.4 to 3.4 ounces, and has a wingspan between 13.0 to 16.1 inches. It has a life expectancy of 15 years, which is the longest among PA woodpeckers. 

Hairy woodpeckers have black and white backs, with white undersides. Males can be identified by an additional red color in their plumage. 

This Pennsylvania woodpecker is among the most commonly sighted woodpeckers in the state. It can be seen in areas with forests and swamps, but also beaver ponds and parks. 

Given their strong bills for drilling, it’s no surprise that they feed on wood-boring insects and tree sap. 

Hairy woodpeckers use songs and drumming sounds to attract a mate. Listen closely for high-pitched calls in the woods if you’re interested in spotting this bird.

6. Pileated Woodpeckers

Black woodpecker on a branchPileated woodpeckers are the largest in PA; their lengths lie between 15.8 to 19.3 inches, with weights between 8.8 to 12.3 ounces and wingspans of 26.0 to 29.5 inches. This Pennsylvania woodpecker lives up to 13 years. 

Pileated woodpeckers have raised red crests on their heads and a splash of red near their bills. Their bodies are black and white but their wings’ undersides are mostly white, which you can observe when they’re in flight. 

These birds thrive in forests containing deciduous and coniferous trees. Their homes are identified by rectangular holes and multiple entrance points. More so, other creatures such as bats take shelter in them. 

They feed on insects, fruits, and nuts. A common source of obtaining food for these Pennsylvania woodpeckers is dead and rotting wood, which they drill into to find insects.

You may be surprised to know how far back sights of pileated woodpeckers are recorded.

Alexander Wilson was a Philadelphian and the first ornithologist of his time, the colonial era. He made recordings of the widespread populations of pileated woodpeckers in his city. 

However, it’s learned from his writings that this woodpecker’s numbers reduced over time as trees were cut down in order to develop the city.  

Thankfully, the pileated woodpecker survived, and today it has a small population in Philadelphia. In other areas of Pennsylvania, this woodpecker species easily finds more places to inhabit. 

If you’re looking to spot pileated woodpeckers in PA, then your best chance is in wooded areas. However, you may see them flying over vast open fields when they’re looking for food.


7. Downy Woodpeckers

white and black bird with spot design on wingsDowny woodpeckers have lengths between 5.5 to 6.7 inches, wingspans between 9.8 and 11.8 inches, and weigh from 0.7 to 1.0 ounces. On average, they live up to 12 years. 

These birds are often confused with hairy woodpeckers. However, if you compare pictures of these woodpeckers in Pennsylvania, you’ll find that downy woodpeckers are much smaller than hairy woodpeckers. 

Adorned in white and black, white chests and a tint of red on their heads, downy woodpeckers are the smallest Pennsylvania woodpecker species. They live in and feed on insects found in dead wood, as well as nuts and berries. 

Downy woodpeckers are found in various kinds of places, such as forests, wetlands, open regions, and even residential spots. 

Due to their small-sized bills, it takes downy woodpeckers three weeks to build their nests completely. Props for perseverance!

They’re nonmigratory and so can be observed all year. However, they fly around more often in the mating season before their eggs hatch. 

Like Northern flickers, downy woodpeckers work together in nurturing their young. If you can’t spot a downy woodpecker in PA, don’t worry! They’re likely taking care of their eggs, both male and female mates.


8. Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers

brown and yellow woodpecker on a treeLike the black-backed woodpecker and unlike all other woodpeckers of Pennsylvania, yellow-bellied woodpeckers are not found year-round in the state. 

They have lengths of 7.1 to 8.7 inches, weigh between 1.5 to 1.9 inches, and wingspans of 13.4 to 15.8 inches. The average lifespan for this bird is 7 years. 

Unlike the red-bellied woodpecker, the yellow-bellied sapsucker lives up to its name. it has a yellow belly (yay!) and feeds on tree sap as well as insects and fruit. 

These Pennsylvania woodpeckers have black and white stripes on their faces and red crowns on their heads. Males also have a red spot on their throats. They can be found in wooded areas and yards. 

The nest-making process of yellow-bellied sapsuckers is carried out by the male, and it takes some weeks to complete. 

Although yellow-bellied sapsuckers don’t seem to mind different kinds of trees since it’s recorded that they dig holes in one-thousand different trees, birch and maple trees are observed to be a preference for them. 

The holes they drill for finding tree sap benefits other creatures like hummingbirds, who also feed on the sap.

In the winter months, these Pennsylvania woodpeckers head southwards towards warmer climates. Otherwise, the yellow-bellied woodpecker can be spotted year-round.

In the woods, listen for bird calls with a “mew” sound: that’s how you’ll know you’re close to a yellow-bellied woodpecker.


FAQs about Woodpeckers of Pennsylvania

1. Do woodpeckers live in Pennsylvania (PA)?

Yes, a total of eight species of woodpeckers are found in Pennsylvania, of which six are observed all year round. 

2. What kind of woodpeckers are in Pennsylvania?

Red-headed woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, pileated woodpeckers, and northern flickers are found all year round in Pennsylvania. 

In addition to these, the yellow-bellied sapsucker is found in warmer months. Also, the black-backed woodpecker sometimes heads south and joins the many PA woodpeckers.  

3. What is the largest woodpecker in Pennsylvania?

Pileated woodpeckers are the largest in PA; they measure between 15 to 19 inches, with weights between 8 to 13 ounces and wingspans of 26 to 30 inches. This Pennsylvania woodpecker lives up to 13 years. 

If you’re looking to spot pileated woodpeckers in PA, then your best chance is in wooded areas. However, you may see them flying over vast open fields when they’re looking for food. 

Final Thoughts On Pennsylvania Woodpeckers

The many types of woodpeckers in Pennsylvania offer a delightful experience to avid and novice birdwatchers. Their different colors, sizes, calls, and even nesting features make them a truly fascinating bird to observe. 

From dense forests to open spaces, woodpeckers in Pennsylvania are in abundance. If you’re looking for an interesting experience in birdwatching, then wait no more! Grab your binoculars and camera and get ready to be amazed!

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