Michigan is well known for being a bird watcher’s paradise. Its wild surroundings and beautiful lakes make the perfect habitat for over 450 birds, including the Woodpecker.
But, what species of Woodpecker can you find in Michigan? And where are you most likely to spot them in their natural habitat?
By the time you’re finished reading, you won’t only know where to find them and how to spot them – you’ll be a Michigan Woodpecker expert!
In a rush and want a quick-reference list of the Woodpecker species you can find in Michigan. Here’s a full breakdown:
- Hairy Woodpecker
- Red-Bellied Woodpecker
- Northern Flicker
- American Three-Toed Woodpecker
- Red-Headed Woodpecker
- Downy Woodpecker
- Lewis’s Woodpecker
- Pileated Woodpecker
- Black-Backed Woodpecker
Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these incredible Woodpeckers!
The Hairy Woodpecker is one of Michigan’s resident Woodpecker species, and can be spotted in the State all year round.
They are even capable of surviving Michigan’s freezing winter temperatures thanks to their thick, namesake, hair-like feathers.
You can identify the Hairy Woodpecker by its pale underparts and necks, gray and black speckled wings, and unique gray and black face stripes.
It also sports a scarlet red patch on the crown and a unique white stripe that runs vertically down their back.
In terms of size, the Hairy Woodpecker measures around 8.5-inches long and has an average wingspan of 15-inches.
The best place to spot a Hairy Woodpecker in Michigan is in open woodlands, and they are particularly fond of setting up home in woods that are abundant in pine and oak trees.
This habitat offers them the perfect place to drill into the bark of the trees in search of food, which primarily consists of ants and wood-boring beetles. They also feed on moth pupae, using their specially adapted bills to snatch them directly from their cocoons.
They have a bit of a sweet tooth too, and will happily feed on tree sap. In fact, they have been known to perch nearby a spot where a Sapsucker is feeding and, once they have left, swoop down and feed on any tree sap left behind.
When food sources become scarce in their woodland habitats, the Hairy Woodpecker will venture further afield and has been spotted in suburban areas.
Unsurprisingly, they are most likely to visit suburban areas with many trees for them to shelter in and feed from.
The Hairy Woodpecker is a cousin on the Downy Woodpecker, which we’ll discuss later, and is quite commonly mistaken for it as it has very similar markings.
However, they are larger than their cousins, who typically measure around 6-inches in length.
They are also much more active than the Downy Woodpecker, particularly when it comes to feeding, and they have been known to strip bark from trees in search of their food rather than simply relying on their bored holes.
The Hairy Woodpecker also nests in its preferred woodland habitat, creating a hole in a tree with their sharp beaks to nest in.
They don’t always create their own nests though, and some will reuse an abandoned nest of another species of Woodpecker to raise their brood in.
One of the smallest members of the Woodpecker family, the Red-Bellied Woodpecker measures around 9.5 inches in length and has an average wingspan of 15-inches.
It is most easily identified by its bright red markings on the head that run vertically from the base of the neck right down to the top of the beak.
You can also identify the Red-Bellied Woodpecker by its namesake red underparts but, as you’re most likely to spot this bird gripped tightly to a tree, these markings can be hard to see.
The Red-Bellied Woodpecker also has black and white barred upperparts, wings, and tail, a pale breast, and an orange patch on either side of its face.
The best place to spot a Red-Bellied Woodpecker is dense woodland, and it has a particular preference for setting up its home in pine and oak forests.
Here, they drill into the wood of trees to create holes in which to nest. They also feed from these trees, burrowing deep into the bark and using a barbed tongue to catch small insects hiding within.
Insects, such as caterpillars, beetle larvae, and ants make up the majority of the Red-Bellied Woodpecker’s food.
They do feed on other things as well though, including seeds, nuts, and berries. You may spot a Red-Bellied Woodpecker hammering a nut into the bark of a tree during fall as well, creating a store to feed from throughout the winter.
They aren’t shy when it comes to visiting backyard bird feeders either, especially those that have a good mix of food on offer throughout the winter months.
Year-round Michigan residents, you can spot a Red-Bellied Woodpecker at any time of the year.
Their numbers are larger in the South of the State though, as birds such as the European Starling flock in larger numbers in the North and have driven the Red-Bellied Woodpecker further South.
The Northern Flicker is another of Michigan’s resident Woodpecker species, and can be spotted all over the State at any time of the year.
It also has some distinctive markings that make it one of the easier species to identify.
The first of their distinctive identifying features is their brown and black barred wings and upperparts.
These markings extend to the legs, underparts, and breast as well. They also have a jet black bib, pale pink-brown throat and cheeks, and a black patch either side of the beak.
Finally, the back of their neck and top of their head is a slate gray color, and a bright scarlet patch is splashed right in the middle of this gray stripe.
In terms of size, the Northern Flicker measures around 11.5 inches long and has an average wingspan of 18-inches.
It also has a long, slightly curved beak that is perfect for foraging for food on the ground.
As a ground feeding bird, it may not come as much of a surprise that the Northern Flicker’s diet mainly consists of insects such as grasshoppers, beetles, and caterpillars.
However, they also utilize their specially-evolved curved bills to burrow into ant nests and feed from deep underground.
Insects aren’t the Northern Flicker’s only food source though, and they’ll also happily feed on seeds, nuts, and fruits.
It is possible to attract the Northern Flicker to your backyard with an offering of seeds, nuts, and mealworms.
Unlike many Woodpecker species, however, they won’t feed from a hanging feeder.
So, if you really want to entice this beautiful bird into your garden, make sure you place your food on a ground feeder.
The best place to spot a Northern Flicker in Michigan is in open woodland.
Here, there is plenty of leaf litter for them to forage for insects, as well as plenty of seeds, nuts, and fruits that fall to the ground for them to snatch up.
They have also been spotted roosting in large gardens and parks but, for the most part, you’ll need to make a trip to your local woods to spot this magnificent bird.
Unlike many species of Woodpecker, the Northern Flicker spends almost no time in trees.
It also doesn’t drum into wood to look for food or create a nest and, instead, will take over an older Woodpecker hole that was created the year before.
They may also nest in cavities they find on the ground, as long as there’s enough cover for them to feel protected.
This lack of drumming doesn’t mean that the Northern Flicker isn’t capable of the Woodpecker’s famed noise-making habit, though.
In fact, the Northern Flicker will peck into objects, creating a loud noise, in order to scare any birds away that they feel are coming into their territory.
They have also been known to drum into metal, creating a really loud noise in the process!
American Three-Toed Woodpecker
While resident in Michigan throughout the entire year, the American Three-Toed Woodpecker is most commonly spotted in the State during the winter months.
This is because other American Three-Toed Woodpeckers from across North America head here for the warmer winter temperatures.
Come spring, they head back to their chosen breeding grounds, while those originally resident remain in Michigan.
The American Three-Toed Woodpecker is a little duller in color than many other Woodpecker species, sporting absolutely no flashy colors at all.
Its main identifying feature is the pure whit stripe that runs vertically down its black back, and it also has black wings that are spotted with white.
The underparts are white with black spots, while the breast is pure white.
It also sports a white stripe across each cheek and just above the bill, while the rest of its face is covered with black feathers.
A smaller-sized bird, the American Three-Toed Woodpecker measures around 9-inches in length and has an average wingspan of 15-inches.
It also has a shorter bill than many other Woodpecker species and, of course, has its namesake three toes on each foot.
At this point you might think that the American Three-Toed Woodpecker doesn’t have very much in common with any other Woodpecker species at all!
However, there are some similarities. The first of these is their diet. The American Three-Toed Woodpecker feeds almost exclusively on insects, and they are particularly skilled at catching wood boring beetles such as the Spruce Beetle.
Their penchant for the Spruce Beetle is also really beneficial to the environment as they are renowned for wreaking havoc on trees all over Michigan.
But, thanks to the American Three-Toed Woodpecker, their numbers are kept in check.
They also utilize their namesake three toes to claw into the bark of a tree, ripping chunks off in the process as they look for Spruce Beetles to feed on.
The American Three-Toed Woodpecker’s preferred habitat of wooded areas and coniferous forests is something else they have in common with their cousins.
These areas are by far the best place to spot them, and their numbers are particularly abundant in North Michigan.
They have also been known to visit parks and gardens though, particularly those with plenty of trees to bore into in search of food.
One remarkable trait of the American Three-Toed Woodpecker is that they are expert at remaining completely still.
This can make them quite difficult to spot, and is thought to be a protective technique rather than flying away to safety.
One of the most unmistakable Woodpecker species in the world, the Red-Headed Woodpecker can be identified by its namesake red head, black shoulders, and white flight wings.
It also has pure white underparts and breast, and a long, slightly curved gray bill. Interestingly, the Red-Headed Woodpecker only comes into its namesake color as it matures, with juveniles sporting gray-brown heads.
In terms of size, the Red-Headed Woodpecker is a medium sized bird that measures around 9-inches in length and has an average wingspan of 16.5 inches.
The Red-Headed Woodpecker can be found in Michigan all year round, although they are found more abundantly in different parts of the State depending on the time of year.
During the winter months, the Red-Headed Woodpecker heads to the South of Michigan. Come spring, it heads further North of the State for the breeding season.
They also travel in large groups and, at either end of these mini-migrations you can spot hundreds of Red-Headed Woodpeckers gathered together.
Regardless of the time of year, the best place to spot the Red-Headed Woodpecker is in open forests, and they are particularly fond of roosting and nesting in pine forests.
They have also been known to roost and nest in swampy areas with large beaver populations. This is because the fallen trees used to create the beavers’ dams make a great place to forage for food!
When it comes to food, the Red-Headed Woodpecker’s diet primarily consists of insects. They find these by drumming into wood, as many species of Woodpecker do.
However, one thing that they are particularly skilled at is snatching flying insects out of the air in mid-flight. This is something not many Woodpecker species are capable of doing.
Insects aren’t the Red-Headed Woodpecker’s only food source, though. They also feed on acorns and nuts, and will happily visit any backyard feeder with nuts on offer.
This is particularly true during the winter months as food sources start to become scarce.
They’ll also take nuts from bird tables and store them away in their forest homes during fall so they have some food to rely on once temperatures start to drop.
One thing that the Red-Headed Woodpecker is renowned for, however, is its aggressive behavior.
Highly territorial, they have been known to destroy both the nest and eggs of other birds that dare to set up home near their territory.
This behavior made the Red-Headed Woodpecker an emblem of war in the Cherokee tribe, and they are also mentioned in Longfellow’s poem “The Song of Hiawatha”.
One of Michigan’s most common Woodpecker species, the Downy Woodpecker measures around 6.5 inches in length and has an average wingspan of 10.5 inches.
It is most easily identified by its white-spotted black wings, black horizontal eye stripe, and bright red patch on the back of its head.
It also has a white underparts, white breast, and a black vertical patch on the front of the head.
Like many birds, the female Downy Woodpecker is a little duller in color and markings than the male. In fact, the female doesn’t have any bright colors on her body at all.
Instead of the red patch, she has a jet black patch on the back of the head. Both sexes are around the same size though, and both have straight, black bills.
The feathers on both sexes’ underparts are fluffy-looking as well, and this is where the name “Downy Woodpecker” comes from.
The best place to spot a Downy Woodpecker is in open, wooded areas. They are particularly fond of living in deciduous forests, and they roost, nest, and feed here all year round.
In terms of food, the Downy Woodpecker’s diet mainly consists of ants, beetle larvae, and caterpillars.
Like most species of Woodpecker, the Downy Woodpecker finds its food by drumming into the bark of a tree to create small holes.
It then uses its long beak and barbed tongue to pull out insects that have burrowed deep into the wood.
Insects aren’t the Downy Woodpecker’s only source of food, though. It also feeds on nuts, seeds, and berries.
This makes it quite an easy bird to attract to your backyard, and it will feed from both ground and hanging feeders.
An offering of peanuts should be enough to entice this beautiful bird into your garden, although you can increase your chances by offering sugar water in a Hummingbird feeder.
When it comes to raising their young, both the male and female Downy Woodpecker are responsible for sourcing food. However, each sex will forage in a different place to find food for their young!
Females tend to search along tree trunks and larger tree branches up high, while males will forage on the ground or search for insects on smaller branches.
The Lewis’s Woodpecker looks entirely different from any other Woodpecker species on our list.
Rather than the usual black, white and red markings we’re familiar with when we think of Woodpeckers, the Lewis’s Woodpecker sports an iridescent green back, wings, and tail.
It also has dark pink underparts, gray breast and next, green head and dark, maroon face.
They also have a slightly thinner build than most other species of Woodpecker, and measure around 11-inches long with an average wingspan of 20-inches.
Males and females are similar in both size and appearance.
Like most Woodpecker species, the Lewis’s Woodpecker preferred habitat is woodland.
That being said, they aren’t as particular as some other species when it comes to what type of woodland they live in, and are equally happy in mixed, deciduous, or coniferous woods.
In fact, as long as there is a source of water nearby they’re perfectly happy to set up home.
They have an appetite that is almost as varied as their habitat, and they’ll happily feed on insects, nuts, seeds, berries, and fruits.
They are expert food-storers as well, and can often be seen hammering nuts into crevices to store over winter.
When it comes to feeding on insects, the Lewis’s Woodpecker has a rather unique way of hunting.
Rather than drumming into the wood or tearing the bark of a tree off with their claws to reveal the insects hiding beneath, it catches flying insects straight out of the air with expert skill.
The way that the Lewis’s Woodpecker flies is also quite unique. They have a slow, heavy flight that is more reminiscent of a larger bird such as a crow.
Lewis’s Woodpeckers are resident in Michigan all year round, although they are most commonly spotted during spring, early summer, and fall.
This is because during these times of year they are busy nesting, raising their broods, and then preparing for the winter months ahead.
One of the largest Woodpecker species you’ll find in Michigan, the Pileated Woodpecker measures around 19-inches in length and has an average wingspan of 28-inches.
It’s also one of the most striking birds you’ll come across, with its main identifying feature being the bright red, almost mohican-like crest on the top of its head.
It also has jet black upperparts and wings, while its underparts are black and white striped.
The face is also black and white striped, and it sports a matching red patch on each cheek.
Evergreen, mixed, and deciduous forests are where the Pileated Woodpecker calls home.
In fact, anywhere with large trees to feed from and roost in are where this bird is most comfortable, and some have even been spotted living in parks and large gardens.
Part of the reason the Pileated Woodpecker chooses to live in such a variety of habitats is because its diet is also quite varied.
Fruits, berries, and nuts all make it onto the Pileated Woodpecker’s menu as, of course, do insects.
It has a particular fondness for feeding on Carpenter Ants and beetle larvae, and drills into the bark of a tree with its sharp bill to reveal them.
Unlike most other species of Woodpecker, however, the drilling holes left behind by the Pileated Woodpecker in search of food aren’t round. They’re rectangular in shape!
They also have a very distinctive drumming pattern which results in a slow, rolling sound rather than the short, sharp, “tack-tack-tack” that you think of a Woodpecker creating.
Another thing that makes the Pileated Woodpecker unique to most other species is that it drills a very large nesting hole during the breeding season.
These holes are so large, in fact, that they’re often reused by other birds such as Swifts, Owls, and even Ducks once the breeding season is over.
Some have even been known to be reoccupied by Bats and Pine Martins.
The final Woodpecker species on our list is the Black-Backed Woodpecker.
Found in North Michigan all year round, the Black-Backed Woodpecker is a fairly common species and is often mistaken for the American Three-Toed Woodpecker.
This case of mistaken identity is pretty justified as it looks remarkably similar, and sports almost exactly the same black and white markings.
The only difference is that the Black-Backed Woodpecker has a bright yellow patch on the top of its head.
The size of the Black-Backed Woodpecker doesn’t help to separate it from its doppelganger either as they are the same size, measuring around 9-inches long and with an average wingspan of 16.5-inches.
They also only have three toes on each foot which, again, makes them very easy to mistake for the American Three-Toed Woodpecker.
The confusion continues as well, as both species live in the same habitat!
The Black-Backed Woodpecker calls forests and woodlands home, and is particularly fond of roosting in areas with bogs and dead wood to look for food in.
They are, however, a lot more territorial than the American Three-Toed Woodpecker, and have even been known to drive their cousins and their young out of their nests in order to defend their territory.
While you’re quite likely to spot a Black-Backed Woodpecker in its preferred habitat, you can also see them quite easily in areas that have recently suffered from forest fires.
This is because the dead wood and exposed landscape offers the perfect place for them to find insects to feed on.
Insects make up the majority of the Black-Backed Woodpecker’s diet, and they are particularly skilled at exposing and feeding on Jewel Beetles and Long-Horned Wood Borers.
They also feed on nuts, seeds, and berries, although they aren’t as common at garden bird feeders as some other Woodpecker species.
During the breeding season, the Black-Backed Woodpecker uses its sharp beak to drill into the trunk of a tree and create a cavity that is large enough to raise their brood in.
Unlike some Woodpecker species, the Black-Backed Woodpecker does not reuse nests and, instead, creates a new one every year.
These abandoned nests are often reused by other animals such as Chickadees, Owls, and Bluebirds.
Where Is The Best Place To Spot Woodpeckers In Michigan?
Each of the nine types of Woodpeckers you can find in Michigan lives in woodland or forest areas, so if you want to find one that’s your best place to start.
Depending on the species, however, some can be drawn to your backyard with nuts or seeds to feed on, and you’ll increase your chances of enticing them in even more if you have some trees for them to feed from and roost in.
If you would like to try and encourage Woodpeckers into your backyard, be sure to place food on a ground feeder and in hanging feeders.
Not all species of Woodpecker are capable of feeding from hanging feeders, so you’ll be increasing your chances of attracting lots of different species if you cover all of your bases.
There you have it – 9 types of Woodpecker you can find in Michigan.
Most of these birds are resident all year round, so they aren’t that difficult to spot.
Some can even be enticed to a backyard bird feeder with a promise of seeds or nuts to feed on!
Whether at home or out in the wild, next time you spot a Woodpecker or hear that telltale drumming sound, be sure to open up this list – you may have just spotted something you’ve never seen before!