Top 10 Species of Woodpeckers in Michigan

A Downy woodpecker in Michigan forests

Whether you’re a birdwatcher or someone studying birds, you might want to know all species of woodpeckers in Michigan. Woodpeckers thrive in the Great Lake State as they can breed and nest in a variety of habitats.

Michigan has over 400 species of birds, thanks to its unique composition of habitats, including woodlands, parks, pine forests, gardens, and swamps. Here are the 10 species of woodpeckers in Michigan.

1. Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus)

With conspicuously black back, broad wings, and a white belly, the black-backed woodpecker are mostly found in Boreal and Montane forests.

They love living in areas with dead trees, where they can forage on beetles. These birds don’t reuse nests, live for up to 8 years, and like forests previously scorched by fire.

2. Red-Headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

The red-headed woodpeckers have striking red plumage on the head, white undersides, and black backs. Males have a red hue running from their bills to the back, while females only have the red coloration on the back of their necks.

They move to the Northern parts of Michigan for breeding, but move to south during winter, and they’re the only species of woodpeckers in Michigan who store food.

3. Red-Bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

Not as migratory as other species, the red-bellied woodpecker has pale-red coating on their bellies and an orangish-red coloring on their heads.

With long and stout black bills, these species of woodpeckers live up to 12 years and can mostly be found in the southern half of the lower peninsula. Larger than most woodpecker species, they feed on nuts, seeds, berries, and tiny insects.

4. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

Known for their yellowish-white belly, the yellow-bellied sapsucker is a migratory species who rely on the tree sap for food.

They’re small and migrate to the south in Winter, but stay in the north the rest of the year. You can easily spot them on deciduous forests on maple or birch trees where they make perfect rows of sap wells.

5. Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

As the largest woodpecker in Michigan and North America, the piliated woodpeckers live in forests with many dead trees where they can forage on ants, beetles, and termites.

They have a red head cap and chiseled beaks, and live in the same spot all-year round. These birds defend their territories and you can attract them to your backyard by feeding them suet.

6. Hairy Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus villosus)

With black and white bodies, the hairy woodpecker can be found across all Michigan. They maintain a straight-backed posture as they try to find insects and berries.

Hairy woodpeckers resemble the downy woodpeckers, but they are larger and have a completely white tail. Downys have spotted tails.

7. Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)

The downy is the most common species of woodpecker in Michigan and can easily be recognized by their white bellies and black backs with white patches.

Males have red spots on their heads and mostly drum on trees when looking for mates. Downy woodpeckers are found everywhere in Michigan and can be found in parks, orchards, backyards, and mature forests.

8. Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

With a flash of yellow in the wings and tails and colorful black-spotted plumage, the Northern Flicker can be found throughout Michigan but often migrate to the north of the state for breeding.

These birds like eating ants and beetles but they also like nuts, berries, and seeds. You can see them in open fields, forest edges, suburban parks, and woodlands.

9. Lewis’s Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis)

Named after Meriwether Lewis, the Lewis’s woodpecker varies from other woodpecker species as they chase and catch insects mid-air but rarely dig into trees. They have pink bellies, a crimson face, and a dark-green back.

This woodpecker species loves open spaces and you can always find them in pine forests and woodlands. They aren’t very common in Michigan, but can still be spotted in backyards and on trees hunting for insects.

10. American Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis)

It’s small and unobtrusive, the American three-toed woodpecker is known for its unique foraging style—chipping sideways on tree backs until it falls away to reveal insect larvae or soft tree tissue.

They breed and live farther north of Michigan than any other species of woodpeckers and are credited for reducing the population of spruce bark beetles.

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