Woodpeckers Of Ohio: Info On All Species & How To Attract (& Handle) Them

red and black woodpecker

Last Updated: April 25, 2021

Sighting Woodpeckers in Ohio is easy-peasy. Of the twenty-three species native to the United States, seven are a sure bet to find in Ohio.

But still…

It’s hard to put a definite number on Ohio Woodpeckers since vagrant species can, well. be vagrant. So, you may be lucky to spot one out of its range in Ohio.

Most Ohio woodpeckers stay in the state all season long, keeping your feeder busy even on snowy winter days.

Today, we'll have a brief rundown and look at pictures of the beautiful woodpeckers in Ohio. Hopefully, you'll find and attract one or more to your yard, or gain knowledge of these birds. 

When Winter is Coming

Many woodpeckers stay throughout the year in Ohio, neglecting the winter migration down south. The ones that stay, of course, have to find shelter and warmth - alone!

The woodpecker gets to work during fall, carving out a home to survive the cold nights. You'd have a great chance attracting these species when you serve suet at your feeder. More at the end of the rundown.

Rundown Of Ohio Woodpeckers

1. Downy Woodpecker

small black and white woodpecker

Characteristics

  • Length: 5.5 to 6.7 inches 
  • Weight: 21 to 28 grams
  •  Wingspan: 9.8 to 11.8 inches
  • Increasing population

The smallest of all woodpecker species in Ohio and North America, the downy woodpecker's bill also looks smaller relative to body size. But don't underestimate its power to drum holes into tree barks.

For a mental picture, this small bird is between the size of a sparrow and a robin. And the size has its perks.

Downies move way more acrobatically, darting around tree trunks or swooping into bushes to meet the day's calories. They would eat suet, peanuts, or mixed seeds at a feeder but feed on galls and insects in the wild.

They are at home in open grasslands and among deciduous trees (with leaves that fall off. But are not uncommon sights in city parks, orchards, and backyards!

The downy woodpecker is likely to be the first drum-beater you'd see in your backyard.


2. Red-Bellied Woodpecker

red crested woodpecker

Characteristics

  • Length: 9 to 10.7 inches 
  • Weight: 56 to 90 grams
  • Wingspan: 13 to 16.5 inches
  • Increasing population

The red-bellied woodpeckers are about thrice the size of downy woodpeckers.

These birds are native to eastern woodlands and forests, like Ohio. You'll find them undulating through branches and trunks of trees. Unlike some woodpeckers, they pick at the bark rather than drill into it.

And they aren't much of a chore to attract in a yard with a feeder serving woodpeckers' favorite - suet.

Identifying them at the feeder or perched up against a tree can be confusing. I'll clarify: 

They have a redhead that makes it easy to confuse them for a red-headed woodpecker.

So you can visualize this drummer as one with a red mohawk crown and legible black and white striped wings at its back. 


3. Hairy Woodpecker

black and white woodpecker clinging on a tree

Characteristics 

  • Length: 7 to 10.2 inches 
  • Weight: 40 to 95 grams
  • Wingspan: 13 to 16.1 inches
  • Increasing population

Another lookalike woodpecker species, but this time, between the downy and hairy woodpecker.

The telling difference is this bird has a prominent beak compared to the downy woodpecker.

Coupled with a larger size, these soldiery-looking birds spend more time foraging (aggressively digging in) larger tree trunks rather than branches. Sometimes, they follow a pileated woodpecker around to pick off insects from holes it dug.

They are all-year residents throughout Ohio and don't migrate during winter. Brace your feeder with suet treats and black oil sunflower seeds (BOS), and they'd turn regular visitors.

A pair of hairy woodpeckers would roost and breed by making cavities in decaying wood or dead trees.


4. Red-Headed Woodpecker

red-headed bird behind tree bracnhes

Characteristics

  • Length: 8 to 9.8 inches 
  • Weight: 56 to 91 grams
  • Wingspan: 13 to 16.5 inches
  • Seasons: All-season
  • Decreasing population

Remember the red-bellied woodpecker with a red mohawk crown? Well, these are the true redheads of the woodpecker species. Their entire head, from neck to crown, is a blazing, unmistakable red. And they can be hotheads too.

They are also something of a smart head rather than just a hothead. Of the four North American woodpecker species that store food, they are the only ones known to cover the stash with wood or bark.

Needless to say…

They can also be hotheads when it comes to their territory. Red-headed woodpeckers are known to destroy or remove and take over other birds' nests.

Surprisingly, their redheads can be tough to spot under the intense glare of the sun. However, their tapping and drumming, black and white plumage, and harsh "weah!" call, give them away easily.

This "flying checkerboard" feeds on insects, suet, seeds, and fruits. You'd see impressive results with apples, berries, cherries, grapes, and pears. In the wild, they are fierce hunters, proficient at hunting in the air like a hawk, and on-ground as well.


5. Pileated Woodpecker

Red headed black woodpecker on a tree

Characteristics

  • Length: 15.8 to 19.3 inches 
  • Weight: 250 to 400 grams
  • Wingspan: 26 to 30 inches
  • Increasing population

The pileated woodpeckers are the largest species you'd find in Ohio. They indeed are a sight to watch, not only for their size but remarkable plumage as well.

This crow-sized woodpecker is considered one of the largest forest birds in North America. It's all-black, with a streak of white down its neck and a red crest with a likeness to that of an Imperial Woodpecker.

It's no wonder many avid birdwatchers strive to attract these species specifically - and you can. They'd eat what other woodpeckers eat - suet especially - but need a large suet feeder with a tail prop to accommodate their size.

Pileated woodpeckers will dig signature rectangular holes in rotten or dead tree barks to feast on carpenter ants and other insects.

These excavations are so large they attract other bird species to feed and nest in them. Sometimes, they are deep enough to break small trees in half.

They have an undulating flight and make loud and clear vocal calls - more like the Joker laughing.

All in all, you can find them in Ohio all year long and maybe entice them to stay around with dead trees or decaying wood.


6. Northern Flicker

spotted grey woodpecker

Characteristics

  • Length: 11 to 12.2 inches
  • Weight: 110 to 160 grams
  • Wingspan: 16 to 20.1 inches
  • Decreasing population

Northern flickers are common species of the woodpecker family. You'd find them in all US states. And though their numbers are decreasing by the number, they have a healthy population and of least concern.

As you can tell from their unique name, they are pretty different from other woodpeckers:

For one, they spend most of their time on the ground, digging up insects. But that's not to say they won't fly up to drill on tree trunks or hunt flying insects. A flicker in Wyoming was once heard beating on a tractor from half a mile away.

While they aren't frequent visitors at feeders, they'd come around. You'd have more luck with a background of trees and birdbath in place.

These medium-sized birds also happen to be the most colorful species in the woodpecker family. Flickers in Ohio display a yellow flash in flight, courtesy of their bright underside and tail feathers.


7. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

brown and yellow woodpecker on a tree

Characteristics

  • Length: 7 to 8.7 inches 
  • Weight: 43 to 55 grams
  • Wingspan: 13 to 16.1 inches
  • Increasing population

The yellow-bellied sapsucker is infamous for the small sap wells it digs into trees. It waits patiently till sap leaks out before it enjoys the sugary liquid and insects that follow.

You'll find a sapsucker's sap wells in neatly arranged rows of small holes across a tree bark. They spend half their time tending to these wells and use up many a tree in the process.

Of all Ohio woodpecker species, sapsuckers are the only fully migratory ones.

Most make parts of southwestern Ohio a feeding stop en route their winter migration further down south. Some are known to return to the same tree for several years to create a new row of wells.

Although yellow-bellied woodpeckers hardly visit backyards, they are known to bend to the will of suet feeders. They have an affinity for birch and maple trees.


How To Attract Woodpeckers

Now you know woodpeckers are not a rare sight in Ohio. If you'd like, you can make your yard conducive for these birds to visit regularly. 

Serve Their Delicacies

Woodpeckers almost never say no to suet. So, it's only natural to make it a first-choice selection. You'd need a durable suet feeder with a tail prop to attract the larger Pileated woodpeckers.

Also, BOS seeds, mealworms, nuts, fruits, and berries are generous serving woodpeckers and a host of other birds. 

Dead Wood Is Toy 

Leave dead wood or tree stumps in your yard for the woodpeckers to forage insects.

It also distracts them from perking on your house or healthy trees. Think of it as a pet toy for cats or dogs. 

Provide A Water Source 

If you haven't set up one already, a birdbath, well, invites birds to drink and bath. 

If you have already, great!

But woodpeckers prefer baths in an isolated and shaded location. They'd feel intimidated to have a drink at a birdbath or fountain if too many birds visit.

Position a ground bath close to a mature tree, and add a dripper or flowing water feature. 

Hang Nest Boxes 

Woodpeckers are cavity nesters, without a doubt. You'd be doing yourself and the birds a great service by putting up a birdhouse.

On the one hand, the birds have a place to nest. On the other hand, they would look away from drilling holes in your house.

Mount a birdhouse with an appropriate entry hole about 10-20 feet high. Adding a few wood chips in the nest box is a plus. 

Plant Trees And Shrubs

As you can tell, they are shy birds, and planting deciduous trees would make them feel at home.

Aside from shelter, it would serve as good food sources. Woodpeckers would eat insects, roost, or retreat to safety in these trees.

Discourage Excavations

When woodpeckers arrive, you would need to take steps to prevent unwanted behavior. Drumming and pecking at objects in your house, often leaving holes.

You can try several ways to curb the nuisance without harming these birds. The goal is to keep them occupied or downright scare them away when they try. 

Frequently Asked Questions?

What Kind of Woodpeckers Are in Ohio?

There are seven kinds of woodpeckers in Ohio. They are:

  • Red-headed woodpeckers
  • Red-bellied woodpeckers
  • Yellow-bellied woodpeckers 
  • Hairy woodpeckers 
  • Downy woodpeckers 
  • Northern flickers
  • Pileated woodpeckers

Want to see them in action? Watch the video of woodpeckers that can be found in Ohio:

What Is The Largest Woodpecker In Ohio?

The largest woodpecker in Ohio is the pileated woodpecker. It's about the size of a crow, with a distinctive red crown and a shriek, loud piping call. 

Why Do Woodpeckers Peck Wood?

Woodpeckers peck holes into trees to pick out insects or build nest cavities. They would occasionally drum on wood, sometimes even on metal, to establish their territory or communicate.

Most woodpeckers, except sapsuckers, are harmless to trees since they work on decaying or dead trees.

Wrapping Up

Catching sight of the seven woodpeckers in Ohio isn't a struggle. Of all of them, only the Yellow-Bellied woodpecker is migratory, so you'd have their company all-season long.

Serving the foods they love – suet, fruits, berries, nuts – one crucial step to attracting woodpeckers. Make your yard attractive and safe with trees and berry-producing shrubs.

When they do come around, you should be ready to handle their natural instincts to peck on your home. 

Had any luck with woodpeckers in OH? How many have you sighted?

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