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Wisconsin Woodpeckers: 8 Different Species (How to Spot Them)

Written by Garrett Hayes

Last updated on Apr 26th, 2024
Brown Woodpecker on a tree

Wisconsin woodpeckers are well-known for their friendly nature, which is why it's hard not to be enchanted by their presence and their captivating appearance. 

These birds may sometimes cause extensive property damage, but there are also advantages in attracting them into your backyard.


If you're among the many people like me, who find the Wisconsin woodpeckers species interesting, you have to read this until the very end. Let's learn more about them and find out what makes their species riveting.

Why Attract Wisconsin Woodpeckers In Your Backyard

Do you know why there are a lot of pictures of woodpeckers in Wisconsin clinging on trees? 

Strong tail feathers capable of supporting the body's weight are one reason why it is innate for WI woodpeckers to cling to trees. Not to mention that they also have two back toes they typically use to incline back on.

These birds also enjoy eating boring insects and other pests in trees, so you will mostly see them lingering around tree trunks seeking food. 
Here are some reasons why these species are beneficial to have in your backyard:

  • Woodpeckers dine on insects and unwanted pests.
  • They would make your yard look more cheerful with their fun colors.
  • They’re unlikely to leave you once they made a home in your yard.

How To Attract The Woodpeckers Of Wisconsin

Woodpeckers in Wisconsin are fun to have around in your yard. Not just because of how adorable they look but because they eat unwanted pests living in your garden.

  • Offer suets! Smear some suets onto the tree trunks or get a feeder that is specialized for suets.
  • Give them black oil sunflower seeds that they like.
  • Prepare a snag, tree branches, that they can use for their nest sites.

How To Keep Woodpeckers Away

Woodpeckers are fun to have around, but there are also disadvantages. 

Some woodpeckers can cause damage to your property, especially your window frames and roofings since your house is also one of the few places they will peck.
Here are some things you can put in your yard to keep them away:

  • Windsocks
  • Pinwheels
  • Shiny Helium Balloon
  • Aluminum foil (strips)
  • Tape that reflects

Types Of Woodpeckers In Wisconsin

If you live in Wisconsin, did you ever wonder what the repetitive hammering sounds you often hear within those thick trees are? They are probably one of these Wisconsin birds pecking the trees with their specialized bills.

Did you know that woodpeckers have different colors and bills?

Downy Woodpeckers

Downy woodpeckers are the smallest and one of the most widespread woodpecker species in America. They also have smaller bills than the others. 

Downy Wisconsin woodpeckers have black and white checkered vibes. Its head has striped black and white and a small patch of red at the back of its head. They also have spots, black and white, on their wings.

Black and White Woodpecker on a branch

One of the exciting things about the downy woodpeckers of Wisconsin is how they use their tail feathers like a tripod when clinging onto trees. If you are one of those backyard feeders, you might be familiar with them!

Hairy Woodpeckers

Did you know? These hairy woodpeckers in Wisconsin got their names due to their thin feathers on their black backs. These woodpeckers may look similar to the downy, but they are slightly more prominent, and their bills are a bit longer. 

You can usually spot the hairy woodpeckers in forests, and because of this, they are less likely to visit your feeders whether you live north in WI or the more central Missouri.

Pileated Woodpeckers

Black woodpecker hanging on a cage

The pileated woodpeckers in Wisconsin are pretty timid than most. I heard that when you live in a residential area, there’s a big chance that they will be shyer.

You can easily recognize a pileated woodpecker if you ever saw one – red-crested head with white stripes across its face. Unlike the downy and hairy, this one is almost as big as a crow. Due to their long bills, they peck big trees for their nesting sites.

Red-Headed Woodpecker

Unlike the other species that I’ve mentioned, the red-headed woodpecker has a red-colored head with bold black and white feathers. 

You can recognize it quite quickly, yet there are times where it can be tricky, too; the harsh sunlight contrasts their bright red head, making it hard to distinguish.

The red-headed woodpecker in Wisconsin was once an abundant species; however, their population is significantly declining. 

Due to their decreasing number, they commonly appear in Wisconsin during their breeding season. If you want to see one, I suggest that you go to open woodlands to see more of their fascinating species.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker on a piece of wood

Their name might be red-bellied woodpeckers, yet their bellies don’t have any red. The bright red feather you’re expecting to see at their underparts can be found at the back of their head. 

These woodpeckers in Wisconsin are interesting, you know? They keep an entire stock of food in the trees they pecked to get through winter. 

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Black and White woodpecker

You might wonder why the yellow-bellied sapsuckers got their name when they don't even have yellow bellies at all. That’s where you’re wrong; if you observe them closely, you will notice that their bellies are pale yellow. 

They have white stripes on their faces and a red patch at the top of their heads and chin (male). The female sapsuckers don’t have the red feathers below their chin.

If you’re in the woodlands, expect to see some of our bird friends. You can also distinguish if you’re in their territory if there are rows of trees with holes. They dine on insects and saps, so you can often see them on trees while feeding.

Yellow-Shafted Flicker

brown and red bird on a tree

Yellow-shafted flickers are also woodpeckers. They have brownish-yellow wings, and their underparts have black spots that call attention to themselves.

It may sometimes come as a surprise, but you can spot flickers on the ground as they usually dine on ants. They also eat on feeders, so you can take this opportunity to take a picture (but remember to approach slowly).

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of woodpeckers are in Wisconsin?

There are a lot of woodpeckers in Wisconsin, and some of the species you will encounter in this state are the following:

  • Downy Woodpeckers
  • Hairy Woodpeckers
  • Pileated Woodpeckers
  • Red-headed Woodpeckers
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • Yellow-shafted Flicker

Listen to the sound of call of a pileated woodpecker here:

Can you shoot woodpeckers in Wisconsin?

The Federal law implements a Migratory Bird Treaty Act to protect the woodpeckers in the state. You will need to secure a special permit or seek a Federal agent's help to remove these creatures when they are causing damage.

Therefore, if you're experiencing any disturbance from woodpeckers, the first best option is to resort to helpful managing techniques instead of shooting them.

Do Wisconsin woodpeckers Migrate?

Woodpeckers migrate; however, some also choose to stay. Take the red-headed woodpecker as an example. This woodpecker species have a significantly decreasing population due to the availability of nesting trees and food. Hence, the red-headed woodpeckers take flight more often than other woodpeckers in the state.

Read Also: Woodpeckers in Minnesota

Final Thoughts

Any bird enthusiasts will agree that it is essential to discover the diversity in these woodpeckers in WI and learn and appreciate their species all the more.

There's so much fun in understanding their different personalities, sizes, preferences, and feather colors. 

If you ask me what's my favorite woodpecker, I’ll go with the red-headed woodpecker. How about you? Who’s your favorite woodpecker?

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