Florida is an excellent place for woodpeckers. Florida is warm throughout the year because of the long summers. The state experiences mild winters. It makes it a magnificent place for birds escaping freezing winters in other states.
You can find up to nine types of woodpeckers in Florida. Some are seasonal migrants, while others are permanent residents. For example, you’ll most likely see a Downy Woodpecker in the summer than in the winter.
If you want to experience woodpeckers go out to the Florida forests and woods or at bird feeders.
Fun Facts About Woodpeckers
Most Common Woodpecker
The Downy Woodpecker is the most common in North America. In Florida, look for this distinctive in Blackwater State Forest, Blackwater River State Forest and Apalachicola National Forest.
The Rarest Woodpecker
The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is the rarest in the world. It is native to Cuba and the Southern United States. They are now almost extinct and there are ongoing efforts to rediscover the species after a rumored sighting.
The Smallest and Largest Woodpecker
The Downy Woodpecker is the most common and smallest. The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest one. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is its closest competition in size to the Pileated Woodpecker.
Woodpeckers have long tongues
Woodpeckers’ tongues are long because of an adaptation to feeding. Woodpeckers pick out items inside tree holes which they make or find. Their tongues are either sticky or barbed to reinforce their grab when feeding. For example, they can peck out a tree to retrieve ants from deep holes.
Woodpeckers cling to tree barks perfectly
Woodpeckers manage to support themselves when wood pecking. They have two back facing toes and strong tail feathers. They assist the birds in clinging on even at tricky angles.
9 Woodpecker Species Living in Florida
Florida’s pine forests are the main attraction to the woodpeckers in the area. The forests are not as dense as before because of deforestation. The habitat in Florida is suitable, but it is not perfect. There are up to 9 species of woodpeckers in Florida. They include;
- Golden-Fronted Woodpecker
- Red-Headed Woodpecker
- Northern Flicker
- Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
- Downy Woodpecker
- Pileated Woodpecker
- Red-Cockaded Woodpecker
- Hairy Woodpecker
- Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Bird watching in Florida is the best because you’ll see a lot of woodpeckers. Woodpeckers are unique and beautiful. All the people working to keep Florida a suitable habitat deserve credit for supporting these beautiful birds.
1. Golden-Fronted Woodpecker
The Golden-fronted Woodpecker is medium-sized with a pointed and long bill. It is smaller than Northern Flicker and bigger than a Downy woodpecker. Both sexes have almost the same size. It exhibits a wingspan of about 17in (43.18cm). An adult Golden-fronted Woodpecker weighs approximately 3oz (85.05g). It can grow up to 10in (25.4cm).
You’ll find the Golden-fronted Woodpecker throughout in Florida all through the year. They rarely migrate to other states. They have black tails, black and white wings, golden nasal tufts and napes, and all other body parts are gray-brown. The golden nasal tufts and napes earn it the name Golden-fronted Woodpecker.
The Golden-fronted Woodpecker feeds on fruits and insects. They peck out around trunks of deciduous trees, large branches and in some vegetation. They are most active, looking for food in the late afternoons and mornings. Their habitat is around woodlands, especially trees such as cottonwoods, oaks and mesquite.
2. Red-Headed Woodpecker
As the name states, this type of Woodpecker has a conspicuous redhead. The Red-headed Woodpecker has spike-like bills, short and stiff tail, and a large round head. It is medium-sized and is almost like the Hairy Woodpecker in size. It is tinier than the Northern Flicker.
The Red-Headed Woodpecker grows up to about 9in (22.86cm). A fully-grown adult weighs about 3oz (85.05g). The wingspan develops to about 16in (40.64cm).
An immature Red-headed Woodpecker has rows of black spots and white wing patches with gray-brown heads. An adult has extensive white wing patches, black backs, white underparts and bright redheads.
The Red-Headed Woodpecker feeds on seeds, fruits, and insects. They use the hammering method while hunting. They often hunt down insects in the open air or on the ground. The Woodpecker has scratchy, shriller and raspy calls.
3. Northern Flicker
Northern flickers are among the largest woodpeckers. They have an extended and flared tail, a down-curved bill, and a small and round head. Northern Flickers are almost the size of a Hairy Woodpecker.
The Northern Flicker grows up to 12in (30.48cm). It can weigh up to about 5oz (141.75g). Their wings are approximately 20in (50.8cm). The Northern Flickers have a brownish body color. They have bright yellow tail feathers and underparts. They have black crescents, bars and spots in their plumage.
Unlike the ordinary Woodpecker, Northern Flickers operate on the ground. They like a flat surface like horizontal branches, which is different from other woodpeckers. Their habitat is in parks, yards, edges and the woodlands.
Northern Flickers are present in Florida all year round. You can spot them around yards. You won’t need to go for a forest walk to see one. They are conspicuous because they hunt on the ground.
4. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are tiny with straight and stout bills. They have crown feathers on their heads and long wings. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is tinier than a Hairy Woodpecker but bigger than a Downy Woodpecker.
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker measures about 8in (20.32cm) long. They weigh up to 1.8 oz (51.03g). A grown adult has a wingspan of about 15in (38.1). You can describe it as smaller than a Hairy Woodpecker but bigger than a Downy Woodpecker.
A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has a uniform black and white pattern through the body. The red throat differentiates males from females. Both have red foreheads. You’ll notice that their folded wings have a long white stripe. They have yellowish underparts.
Yellow-bellied sapsuckers lean on their tails and perch upright. They will lean on their tail when necessary. They drill sap wells on barks to create clear shallow holes in trees. They eat insects trapped in the sap wells while taking up the tree bark sap. They have a unique stuttering pattern when drumming on trees or other objects.
Look for Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers around conifer forests in Florida. They like nesting in aspens and other small trees. They move to open woodlands during winters. You might be lucky to see some around backyards as they search for suet-stuffed bird feeders.
5. Downy Woodpecker
The Downy Woodpecker resembles the Hairy Woodpecker but smaller. They have a straight-backed posture, broad shoulders, a blocky head and a chisel-like bill. They do not have long bills like most woodpeckers.
The Downy Woodpecker grows up to about 6in (15.24cm) long. At this length, it weighs about 1oz (28g) with a wingspan of about 11in (27.94cm).
You’ll notice that the Downy Woodpecker has black and white pattern checks from afar. When you look closer, you’ll see that it has a white underpart, bold black and white stripes on the head and wings. If you see a red patch on the head, it’s a male Downy Woodpecker.
You won’t need a seasonal arrangement to spot a Downy Woodpecker in Florida. You’ll find them in all seasons, whether winter or summer. You’ll also find them at bird feeders. Stopover at one and look for a woodpecker that fits the above characteristics.
Downy woodpeckers eat peanuts, millet, and sunflower seeds. They love suet, which increases the chances of spotting them around bird feeders.
6. Pileated Woodpecker
The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the most conspicuous woodpeckers. It has a flaming-red crest with striking black and white stripes on the neck and uniform black on the other body parts. Pileated Woodpeckers eat carpenter ants. Its crested head makes the Pileated Woodpecker stand out.
You’ll often spot Pileated Woodpeckers around fallen logs and dead trees looking for the carpenter ants. They also make suitable nest holes that other species use, such as bats, ducks and owls. They have chisel-like bills that allow them to create magnificent nests. They look like crows in shape and size.
The Pileated Woodpecker grows up to 19in (48.26cm). They weigh approximately 12oz (340g). Their wingspan is about 29in (73.66 cm) long.
Look around drowned or mature forests in Florida to find the Pileated Woodpeckers. Their love for suet also makes them frequent bird feeders. They make rectangular holes entries on their nests rather than oval or round.
They feed on mealworms, peanuts, hulled sunflower seeds, and black oil sunflower seeds. Add these to your feeder to attract the Pileated Woodpeckers to your backyard.
7. Red-Cockaded Woodpecker
The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker is small. They have straight and short bills. They are almost the size of a robin. A full-grown adult is about 9in (22.86 cm) long. It weighs approximately 1.7oz (48.19g). Its wingspan will be around 14in (35.56cm).
They have black and white spots and bars all over their body. It contrasts the ‘red’ in its name. The only red part is at the top of the cheek. The red spot is only available in males.
The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is family-oriented. They are quite vocal as they move around in groups. They create nests on tree bark, like other woodpeckers. They like living in pine trees. They raise young ones within families.
The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker is an endangered species. Luckily you’ll find them in Florida. They live out in the wild. You’ll spot them around pine trees.
The declining population of pine trees across America is reducing the species’ numbers. Their natural habitat is fading away. You’ll be fortunate to spot a Red-Cockaded Woodpecker in your backyard bird feeders.
8. Hairy Woodpecker
The Hairy Woodpecker has long tail feathers, a chisel-like bill and a square head. It is bigger than the Downy Woodpecker. The Hairy Woodpecker is about 10in (25.4cm) long. It weighs about 3oz (85.05cm). The wingspan is approximately 15in (38.1cm).
A Hairy Woodpecker is distinctive because of its black and white body. Males have a red spot on the top of their heads. Both sexes have black and white stripes on their head. Their wings have black and white checks. The underpart is white.
A Hairy Woodpecker will hunt almost anywhere. You’ll spot them on the ground, on fallen logs, at tree limbs, main branches and tree trunks. You can differentiate them from other woodpeckers through their slow ripply flying style. You’ll find them in the Florida forests. They rarely show up at bird feeders.
9. Red-Bellied Woodpecker
The Red-Bellied Woodpecker resembles the Hairy Woodpecker. It does not have blocky outlines. It is about 9in (22.86cm) long. It weighs approximately 3oz (85.05g). Its wingspan is about 16in (40.64) cm.
Its flashy red cap is a standout for the Red-Bellied Woodpecker. Its underparts are pale white and red. Its back has bold black and white stripes. The wingtips exhibit white patches when the Woodpecker is in flight.
Florida is rich with woodpeckers. You won’t miss a Red-bellied Woodpecker out in the woods. You’ll find them along tree trunks and branches. They have a similar undulating flying pattern to the Hairy Woodpecker.
The Woodpecker can adapt to various habitats. The main one is usually a forested area. Their feeding habit requires that they stay around trees. Some of the widespread habitats include;
- Tropical forests
- Oak forests
- Pine forests
- Deciduous forests
You will also find woodpeckers in grasslands or deserts. The urbanization rate is high, meaning more invasion into the woodpecker habitat.
It is common for people to establish bird feeders in their backyards. Woodpeckers are now found in cities, parks, pastures, and farms in urban areas. The change of ecosystems is not only affecting woodpeckers but also other birds and animals.
Winter Behavior / Migration
Most woodpeckers migrate to warm or less cold areas like Florida during cold winter months. It is usual for most birds also, as they seek to sustain their eating habits. Not all woodpeckers migrate, depending on their location. If it’s not so cold, they won’t move.
During the winter, stay in groups in one nest to stay warm. They can be in groups of 100 woodpeckers in a well dug out nest, especially in dead logs. The Pileated Woodpecker is different. Each of them will stay in their nests. Males often do not change their nests during winters.
Woodpeckers help a lot of species during winter. Their abandoned nests are a shelter for other birds and animals. Woodpeckers also share nests with other birds and animals if their nests are big, for example, wood ducks.
Woodpecker Life Cycle
Male woodpeckers create nests for females to lay eggs. A female woodpecker will lay four eggs. They share the incubating duty. The male incubates eggs at night while females during the day.
The eggs hatch within two weeks. The male and female woodpeckers take care of the chicks until they are a month old. At this point, they are ready to fly out and make their nests. Woodpeckers are monogamous throughout their life.
Two woodpeckers start a romance with calls, display flights and drumming. The male Woodpecker attracts a female to their nesting hole where they can begin their relationship. These courtship signs are also ways of sexual stimulation.
Woodpeckers do not fly far to look for food. When they do so, it means that they are switching their habitat. They stay in the same area through the year’s seasons. Their diets change depending on the seasons. They only move from their habitat if they cannot get food. The foods are readily available, which limits their range.
Different foods attract woodpeckers. Even during winters, you’ll spot woodpeckers foraging for food. They scour around tree trunks looking for their favorites. If you are looking to attract woodpeckers to your backyard feeders, you’ll need to include the following foods.
Woodpeckers love suet. You can buy suet or make yours. Woodpeckers will still eat the suet. Suet is saturated animal fat. You can use a pack of suet cakes from your local store that woodpeckers will eat from the feeders. Place them in your backyard suet feeder and wait.
Woodpeckers eat small insects. This is common among the woodpeckers that live in the wild. They hunt them down in tree trunks, branches and on the ground. Peanuts and sunflower seeds are also favorites for woodpeckers. These are a must-have for your backyard feeders.
Woodpeckers have several predators. They include;
- Bully birds like eagles and vultures
- Wild cats
Woodpeckers are unsafe from carnivores. They are easy prey to most animals. Their eggs are also at considerable risk. Animals that can reach their nests can eat their eggs. Woodpeckers attract prey from their pecking sounds. It is an adaptation to feed, but it risks their lives.
Preferred Trees to Live In
The natural habitat for woodpeckers is forested areas. They prefer oaks, cottonwoods, birch trees, maples and pines. It can be vegetated forests or open trees. Woodpeckers choose trees with smooth barks, preventing predators from climbing to their nests.
Trees barks are a preferred nesting zone. You’ll find woodpeckers living out of buildings, branches and utility poles. Natural cavities are an easy pick. Their choice depends on the habitat. They will not leave their nest for many years.
Habitat Loss Caused by Climate Change
Many conservatives are in play to preserve woodpeckers. One notable project is the search for the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. Scientists believe it is extinct.
This is a case of a possible extinct bird due to habitat loss. Climate change is a significant contributor. You can’t downplay the effect of human factors such as poor forestry practices, urban development and logging. They are all contributing to climate change.
Climate change is causing damaging storms. They are killing birds, including woodpeckers. It is one of the greatest destroyers of the woodpeckers. It is evident as most woodpecker species’ numbers are declining.
You might think that carving out a nest is an easy task for woodpeckers. It takes years. It makes it a difficult task for woodpeckers to move to new habitats. There are many factors involved, such as types of trees and availability of food.
Woodpeckers depend on old-growth forests to establish their colonies. Without such habitats, it endangers their lives. Climate change affects conservation efforts to maintain specific trees, such as pine trees.
Cultural References – Myths, Legends
Woodpeckers are sacred in Roman mythology. It was almost like a minor god because people worshiped the bird. They also valued the bird because they helped fertilize the farms with natural manure. Woodpeckers are common symbols in Roman mythology. For example, Zeus, a god, got a woodpecker representation.
Woodpeckers are the god of thunder or Thor in Norse mythology. It is because woodpeckers create a lot of noise while hammering through tree bark. Norse Mythology compares it to lightning because of its impact when it strikes.
Celtic mythology relates woodpeckers to rain. When the Celtics spot many woodpeckers, they believe the rainy season is coming. They think that they send messages to gods by knocking on trees.
Native Americans relate woodpeckers to happiness and friendship. They have a famous story about a coyote and a Red-headed Woodpecker. The coyote thought the Red-Headed Woodpecker’s head was on fire. The Woodpecker told the coyote that they were born that way. The coyote makes fun of the red head, and they eventually become friends.
Which woodpecker species are in Florida?
The woodpeckers in Florida are; Golden-Fronted Woodpecker, Red-Headed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker and the Red-Bellied Woodpecker.
Which trees do woodpeckers live in?
Woodpeckers live in sweet gums, fruit trees, birch, spruce and pine trees. They’ll also hunt on the same trees if they have other cavities.
What food do woodpeckers eat?
Woodpeckers eat insects, nuts and fruits. Examples are elderberry, dogwood, sumac berries, blackberries, termites and beetle larvae.
Do woodpeckers return to the same spot?
Woodpeckers create a nest. They live in the same one for years unless they migrate or deem it risky. Some woodpeckers might build new nests each year.
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