Woodpeckers in Colorado: [13 Species] A Complete Guide With Pictures and Identification

Woodpeckers in Colorado

Woodpeckers in Colorado are one of the most interesting and unique birds with a wide collection of woodpecker species. There are 13 different species of Woodpeckers that can be found in the state, and each one is special in its own way.

In this guide, we will take a look at all 13 types of woodpeckers common in Colorado, and identify which are the most common. We will also provide some tips on how to identify them and where you are likely to spot them in Colorado.

What are the Woodpecker birds of Colorado?

The woodpeckers of Colorado include thirteen observed species. The most common of these include the Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, and Hairy Woodpecker. The Northern Flicker is the largest of these species, while the Downy Woodpecker is the smallest.

The other ten are less likely to be seen and include the Red-breasted Sapsucker, Acorn Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Red-naped Sapsucker, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and the Northern Flicker.

Woodpeckers have strong bills used for pecking and chiseling through wood to find food and for communicating with other woodpeckers. They are also known for their distinctive drumming sounds, which can be heard in the spring as they search for a mate. Woodpeckers in Colorado can be found in wooded areas and along the edges of forests and backyards. The most common species to spot in backyards are the Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, and Hairy Woodpecker.

Lewis’s Woodpecker

 A photo of a Lewis's Woodpecker with its characteristic red breast and black wings

Length: 10.2-11.0 in Weight: 3.1-4.9 oz Wingspan: 19.3-20.5 in

The Lewis’s Woodpecker is a North American species of woodpecker that can be easily identified by its distinct features, such as a dark red face, grey collar, and dark iridescent green-black back, with wings and tail that are all dark without spots or patches. This medium-sized woodpecker species has glossy greenish-black upper parts with a pale gray breast band that wraps around the neck, and a pinkish color on its belly.

In Colorado, Lewis’s Woodpecker can be located throughout the year in many areas, with those from the northern part of the state typically migrating southward during the colder months, It is also known for its curious behavior of catching insects in midair rather than pecking into wood for grubs, and for its soft calls consisting of a short but harsh “chur” sound and a clicky “yick” sound.

Red-Naped Sapsucker

 A photo of a red-naped sapsucker in a tree

Length: 7.5-8.3 in Weight: 1.1-2.3 oz Wingspan: 16.1-16.9 in

The Red-naped Sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker found in western North America. They can be seen in western Colorado during the warmer breeding months, typically mid-May. They are very vocal birds, and their calls consist of a whining “waa waa” sound and a harsher “waa” sound used to alert their mates. They are also known to drum to mark their territory or attract a mate. They are cavity nesters, meaning they will drill a hole in a tree to make their nest.

Red-naped sapsuckers primarily feed on tree sap, as well as insects and fruit. They create “sapsucker wells” by drilling several holes in a row. They are not typically considered a pest, as they do not damage healthy trees, but can be damaging to young or weakened trees.

Acorn Woodpecker

 A photo of an acorn black and white woodpeckers perched on a tree trunk

Length: 7.5-9.1 in Weight: 2.3-3.2 oz Wingspan: 13.8-16.9 in

The Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) is a small to medium-sized woodpecker found along the west coast of North America to central Mexico. It is a black and white bird with a red head. Acorn Woodpeckers prefer to live in small groups or “clans” and feed on insects, nuts, fruits, and sap. They are also known to store food in caches for later use. In Colorado, they can be seen in the southwestern edge of the state all year round, usually in oak woodlands and foothills of the Rocky Mountains at lower elevations.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers

A close-up of a yellow-bellied sapsucker's beak one of Woodpeckers in Colorado

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America and can be found in Colorado during the winter months. They are mostly black and white with a striped face, white wing patches, and yellowish underparts. Males have a red forecrown and red throat, and females have a red forecrown and white throat. They have a squeal-like call that sounds like “weeah” and a cat like “meeow” call. They also make a drumming sound on trees or metal objects to warn other birds away from their territories.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is unique among woodpeckers in that they drink the sap of trees. They make small holes in the bark of trees and return to these holes to feed on the sap, and the insects attracted to it. They also eat flying insects, fruits, and seeds. For nesting, they are cavity nesters and the male and female take turns drilling the hole and incubating the eggs. Females will lay between 3-7 eggs per clutch and incubate them for about two weeks before the chicks hatch.

Downy Woodpecker

Close-up of a downy woodpecker's head and beak one of Woodpeckers in Colorado

Length: 5.5-6.7 in Weight: 0.7-1.0 oz Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in

The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker native to North America and is scientifically known as Picoides pubesces. It is primarily black in colour, with white stripes running down its back, white spotted wings and a white belly. The male species have a red patch on the back of their head, while the females have a white patch. They are around six inches in length and weigh around one ounce.

These woodpeckers can be found throughout Colorado all year, and most likely to visit backyard bird feeders, They feed on insects, spiders, fruits, berries, and nuts and will often visit bird feeders for suet, sunflower seeds, or peanuts.

They are cavity nesters which means they drill a hole in a tree and use it as a nest. The male and female will take turns drilling the hole and incubating the eggs. They lay between three to six white eggs per clutch which take two weeks to incubate and another three weeks for the chicks to fledge and be able to fly on their own.

Northern Flicker

Photos of woodpeckers: A close up of a Northern Flicker woodpecker's beak, one of the common birds in colorado springs

Length: 11.0-12.2 in Weight: 3.9-5.6 oz Wingspan: 16.5-20.1 in

The Northern Flicker is found across North America and is the most common woodpecker of Colorado. It is seen in the state year-round and is relatively abundant. The Northern flicker prefers to forage on the ground for ants and other insects and can be seen “wicking” its bills on the ground after catching an insect. It also eats fruits, berries, and nuts in the fall and winter, as well as suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts from bird feeders and backyard suet feeders.

Hairy Woodpecker

A photo of a Hairy black and white Woodpecker in Colorado

Length: 7.1-10.2 in Weight: 1.4-3.4 oz Wingspan: 13.0-16.1 in

The Hairy Woodpecker (Dryobates villosus) is a medium-sized woodpecker found in forests and wooded areas across North America. It is mostly black with white stripes on its back and wings, and a white belly with a red patch on the back of its head. It usually measures between nine and ten inches long and has a wingspan of around fifteen inches.

The Hairy Woodpecker is an important part of the forest ecosystem, feeding on insects, including pine beetles, ants, and caterpillars, as well as fruits and nuts. In Colorado, the Hairy Woodpecker can be found year-round in mature forests, suburban backyards, urban parks, swamps, orchards, and even cemeteries.

The hairy woodpecker is a little more reluctant to interact with humans, and while they will visit backyard suet feeders, they are less commonly seen than the downy woodpecker.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Birds of colorado black and white:A photo of a ladder-backed woodpecker in Colorado with text explaining its identification.

Length: 6.3-7.1 in Weight: 0.7-1.7 oz Wingspan: 13.0 in

The ladder-backed woodpecker is a small woodpecker species that can be easily identified with its black and white barred pattern on its back and wings resembling the rungs of a ladder, the ladder-backed Woodpeckers look a lot like Nuttall’s Woodpeckers, which is another type of Picoides. However, the latter is only found in the coastal regions of California.

Ladder-backed Woodpeckers are non-migratory and If you’re looking to spot a Ladder-backed Woodpeckers in Colorado, plan an early morning visit between late January and March when the birds are most active. These small woodpeckers are typically found in dry habitats, such as deserts, desert scrubs, thorn forests, and pinyon-juniper forests, in Southeastern Colorado and other parts of the US. Look in clusters of cholla, Joshua trees, juniper, willow, or honey mesquite. 

The male has a red crown with black and white spots near the front of their bill, whereas the female has only a black crown. Listen carefully for their distinct “pik” call, descending rattle, or quick drumming. With their black and white speckled backs, and whiteish-gray undersides with faint black markings, locating these woodpeckers may seem daunting, but if you are patient and keep your eyes open, you will likely spot at least one.

American Three-toed Woodpecker

Photo of an American Three-toed Woodpecker digging for insects in a fallen tree

Length: 8.3-9.1 in Weight: 1.6-2.4 oz Wingspan: 14.6-15.3 in

The American Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis) is a medium-sized woodpecker species from the family of Picidae native to North America. Colorado is actually one of the few places in the United States where the American Three-toed Woodpecker resides. 

The species has a black and white upperbody with white barring down the center and males have a yellow patch on their foreheads. The call of the American three-toed woodpecker sounds like a soft “pik” sound and they drum on trees to mark their territory or attract a mate. It mainly feeds on insects and larvae found in trees and occasionally eats fruits and sap.

The American three-toed woodpecker is a year-round resident of Colorado but is much more common in Canada. Look for them in mountainous areas and the national forests of the middle of the state, as they prefer damaged, old growth forests with lots of dead or even burned trees.

Williamson’s Sapsucker

 A photo of a woodpecker perched on a tree in Colorado

Length: 8.3-9.8 in Weight: 1.6-1.9 oz Wingspan: 17 inches

The identification criteria for Williamson’s Sapsucker are size, coloration, and behavior. Males are mostly black with white stripes on the head, white wing patches, a red throat patch, and a yellow belly.

Females have brownish heads, black and white barring on their bodies, a black breast patch and a yellow belly. In terms of behavior, they make a harsh “chyaah” sound and drum on trees to mark territory and attract mates. They also drill small holes in conifer trees and eat insects, sap, berries, and fruits.

Red-Breasted Sapsucker

A photo of a red-breasted sapsucker female perched on a tree branch

In Colorado, the Red-Breasted Sapsucker is a rare sight, only seen by the most experienced of birdwatchers in late winter or early spring. They are usually found in coniferous forests, preferring the wilder side of the state, particularly in the Rocky Mountains. They can also be spotted in less wild areas, such as abandoned power lines.

These birds prefer to spend time in calm and peaceful forests, as they are quite shy. They drill into trees to get to the sap and hunt for insects too, so they need plenty of trees to feed and nest.

The Red-Breasted Sapsucker’s nest is quite simple, opting for a cavity or hole in a dead tree. The female lays between four and six eggs, which the male helps to incubate. After hatching, both parents help to feed the young.

Overall, the Red-Breasted Sapsucker is a fascinating bird, and Colorado is lucky to have them visit in the winter months, as it is a rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of these vibrant creatures.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

A close-up of a woodpecker's beak, red bellied woodpecker nesting habits

Length: 9.4 in Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz Wingspan: 13.0-16.5 in

The Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) is a small to medium-sized woodpecker found in the eastern United States and southeastern Canada. They have black and white plumage, as well as a faint reddish color on their belly, which is typically only visible when perched, like most other woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers possess a long tongue that can stretch out almost two inches beyond their beak.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are one of the most dominant birds at feeders, they are non-migratory birds, meaning they will stay in the same general area year-round. In the northeastern edge of Colorado, the Red-bellied Woodpecker can be seen all year round. They are cavity nesters and feed mainly on insects, fruit and seeds. They are a species of concern in some states due to habitat loss.

Red-headed Woodpecker

pictures of red headed woodpeckers

Length: 7.5-9.1 in Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz Wingspan: 16.5 in

The Red-headed Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker that is easily recognizable by its red head, black body, and white patches on the wings. It is found across North America, but is scarcely observed in Colorado. In the eastern half of the state, however, the bird may be seen during the warmer breeding months.

Males and females look alike, but juveniles have brownish heads without any red hue. The Red-headed Woodpecker has a shrill “tchur” call, similar to that of the Red-bellied Woodpecker but with a higher pitch. In Colorado, they can be identified by their size (larger than a Robin but smaller than a Crow) and their distinctive plumage (black body with white chest and belly, white wings, and red head, neck, and throat).

How Frequently Woodpeckers are Spotted in Colorado in Summer and Winter?

In summer, the Northern Flicker is the most commonly spotted woodpecker in Colorado, with 30.6% of checklists recording it, followed by the Downy Woodpecker with 11.9%. In winter, the Northern Flicker is still the most commonly spotted woodpecker with 34.7% of checklists recording it, followed by the Downy Woodpecker at 17.0%.

How to Attract Colorado Woodpeckers to Your Yard?

Attracting woodpeckers to your yard is an easy and rewarding task! Here are some step-by-step instructions to get you started:

  1. Get to know your local woodpecker species. Colorado is home to 13 different species of woodpeckers, so it’s important to learn which one(s) are most likely to visit your yard.
  2. Set up a woodpecker feeder. This is the best way to guarantee woodpeckers will visit your yard. Make sure to read our guide on choosing the best woodpecker feeder so that you get the right one for your needs.
  3. Provide the right food for woodpeckers. Woodpeckers are mainly insectivores, but they will also eat fruit, nuts, and suet. Make sure to read our guide on what to feed woodpeckers so that you provide them with a balanced diet.
  4. Give them a place to bathe. Bird baths are essential for keeping woodpeckers healthy and providing them with a source of drinking water.
  5. Plant native trees that woodpeckers love. Trees such as oaks and maples are great for providing woodpeckers with food and shelter.

By following these steps, you’re sure to attract woodpeckers to your yard in no time!


What is the most common woodpecker in Colorado?

The most common woodpecker in Colorado is the Northern Flicker. This species is the largest woodpecker in Colorado and is common in many backyards. It has a distinctive red or yellow patch of feathers on its lower belly and a brownish-red back.

Northern Flickers feed on insects, fruits, and nuts and can be seen drumming on trees to communicate with other birds. According to the latest data from ebird, the Northern Flicker is the most commonly observed woodpecker in Colorado, with over 34,000 dedicated bird watchers having reported sightings throughout the state.

Are woodpeckers protected in Colorado?

Yes, Woodpeckers are protected under Colorado’s state regulations which monitor the populations and help ensure that the species is not overhunted. Given that they are an essential part of the Colorado ecosystem and play a vital role in the forest, many local wildlife organizations are dedicated to preserving and conserving woodpeckers.

Are woodpeckers good to have in your yard?

Woodpeckers can be beneficial to have in your yard as they can help to reduce insect populations, but they can also be a nuisance by drilling holes in wood and synthetic stucco siding and eaves and hammering or “drumming” on houses.

To attract woodpeckers to your backyard, you can build a nesting box for them, you can also provide them with food sources such as fruits and berries like dogwood, serviceberry, tupelo, mountain ash, strawberry, cherry, grapes, bayberry, holly, blueberries, apples, mulberry, brambles, and elderberries.

Does Colorado have woodpeckers?

Yes, Colorado has woodpeckers. The state is home to 13 different species of woodpeckers, ranging from the common Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, and Hairy Woodpecker to the more rare Red-breasted Sapsucker, Acorn Woodpecker, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Colorado’s climate and environment, including its 3 million acres of wilderness, provide a perfect habitat for woodpeckers to thrive in.

What is the largest woodpecker in North America?

The largest woodpecker in North America is the Great Slaty Woodpecker (Mulleripicus pulverulentus), which is found across the eastern and southern parts of the continent. This species can grow up to 20 inches in length, making it the largest woodpecker species in North America.

The Great Slaty Woodpecker has a black body with a dark purple gloss, white wing patches and a barred back. The male has a red patch on its head, while the female has a brown patch. This species diets mainly on insects and larvae and can be found in deciduous forests, woodlands and parks.

How do woodpeckers in Colorado survive the winter?

In Colorado, there are 13 species of woodpeckers, 11 of which are considered regularly occurring, and 2 additional species are considered rare or accidental. The most common woodpeckers found in Colorado are the Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Hairy Woodpecker.

Most woodpeckers feed on wood-boring insects, insects on trees and the ground, vegetable matter, berries, or tree sap. Therefore, in winter, woodpeckers in Colorado typically need to find food sources that contain these items, such as insect larvae, tree sap, and fruit.

Woodpeckers generally prefer habitats with large trees and vegetation. Therefore, the best place to look for woodpeckers in Colorado during the winter is in areas with large trees, such as national forests.

Are woodpeckers in Colorado migratory?

Woodpeckers in Colorado are common, often seen in wooded areas, along the edges of forests, and in backyards. There are 13 observed species of Woodpeckers in Colorado, with three being common and the last ten being more scarce and less likely to be seen. While the majority of woodpeckers in Colorado are sedentary, some species are migratory and only spend a short period of time in the state due to the cold, snowy winters.

Woodpeckers in Colorado are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, as they are classified as migratory, nongame birds. Some woodpeckers migrate south for the winter, while others stay in the state year round. The largest observed species of woodpecker in Colorado is the northern flicker, which is migratory and will migrate south for the winter. The northern flicker is also the most common member of the woodpecker family in Colorado.

Overall, it can be concluded that some woodpeckers in Colorado are migratory, while others remain in the state year round. The northern flicker is an example of a migratory species, while the downy woodpecker is an example of a species that remains in the state year round.

What is the difference between a red-headed woodpecker and a pileated woodpecker?

The Red-headed Woodpecker and the Pileated Woodpecker are two species of woodpecker found across North America. While they are both medium-sized woodpeckers, their appearance and behavior are quite different.

The Red-headed Woodpecker has a brilliant crimson head and neck, set off by a snow-white collar and belly. The rest of the body is black, including glossy wings with two large white patches. The female is similar but has a less conspicuous redhead and mostly black body. The Red-headed Woodpecker is a migratory bird and its range doesn’t extend west of the Rocky Mountains. They are omnivores, adept at catching flying insects such as moths and grasshoppers, and they will also store food in crevices for later feeding.

The Pileated Woodpecker, on the other hand, is a larger woodpecker with a black body, white stripes on the face, and a bright red crest. The wings and tail are barred black and white. The Pileated Woodpecker is found across the United States and Canada, and is not migratory. They feed mainly on insects, which they extract by hammering into tree bark with their large bill. Pileated Woodpeckers also create nesting cavities in dead trees.

The major difference between these two species is their appearance and habitat. The Red-headed Woodpecker is found mainly in open woodlands, parks, and gardens across the United States and southern Canada, while the Pileated Woodpecker is found across the United States and Canada and is not migratory. The Red-headed Woodpecker is smaller, with a crimson head and neck, while the Pileated Woodpecker is larger, with a black body and red crest. At the same time, the Red-headed Woodpecker is omnivorous, while the Pileated Woodpecker feeds mainly on insects.

How rare is it to see a Pileated Woodpecker?

Pileated Woodpeckers are considered to be the rarest of all woodpecker species found in Colorado. While it is possible to spot one, their population is decreasing across North America due to habitat destruction. According to a survey conducted in 2019, only a very small number of Pileated Woodpeckers were reported in Colorado, and are observed to be using nesting boxes from May to July.

Recent research conducted in 2020 showed that Pileated Woodpeckers have a low nesting success rate due to predation and competition from non-native species. Therefore, in conclusion, it is quite rare to spot a Pileated Woodpecker in Colorado.

What bird looks like a woodpecker but bigger?

The Lewis’s Woodpecker is a large woodpecker species native to North America, which looks quite different from other species of woodpecker. It has a bulky body, green back, pink body, gray collar, and a red face patch, making it look like Christmas decided to make a woodpecker!

This bird is much bigger than other woodpecker species with a wingspan of up to 42.5 cm and a length of 19-25 cm. Unlike other woodpeckers, Lewis’s Woodpeckers use slow, deep wingbeats and frequently glide when flying, which is more reminiscent of a crow’s flight pattern. They also tend to catch insects in midair instead of pecking at trees for food.

What is the rarest type of woodpecker?

The rarest type of woodpecker found in Colorado is the Red-breasted Sapsucker (Dryobates pubescens). This bird belongs to the Piciformes order and the Picidae family, and it grows to be between 5.5 to 6 inches in length.

This species is usually found in coniferous and deciduous forests, and it is widely distributed in the western part of North America, including Colorado. The Red-breasted Sapsucker is considered rare compared to other woodpeckers found in the area due to its limited range and its preference for cold climate.

Is a Flicker a woodpecker?

Yes, a Flicker (genus Colaptes) is a woodpecker. Flickers are among the most common woodpeckers in the United States, and the most common of the Colorado woodpeckers. They have a black head and neck with a distinctive red mustache stripe, mottled brown and white wings, and a mostly brown body.

Northern Flickers can be identified by their black spots on the bellies and a solid black bib. Males have either a black or red mustache from the base of the beak to below the eyes. Flickers feed mainly on insects which they find on both trees and the ground. They are also known for their loud “wicka-wicka” sound they make while perched on power lines and fences. The Northern Flicker is the state bird of Colorado.

What is a black-and-white bird that looks like a woodpecker?

Nuttall’s Woodpeckers are small black-and-white striped woodpeckers with a red crown on the male’s head and 2 narrow white stripes on the cheeks of both sexes. The male also has a red throat and red nape (back of the neck). The female has a red throat, and a small white patch just under the bill, and her nape can be white or red.