Indiana has many beautiful sights, including thick forests, waterfalls, and lots of farmland. That doesn’t mean Indiana is lacking in exciting wildlife to see. In fact, Indiana has a thriving population of beautiful birds that draw birdwatchers in from all across the country!
Indiana is home to songbirds, hawks, eagles, and even woodpeckers! Not just one type of woodpecker, though. Indiana has seven species of woodpeckers that call the state home:
- Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Pileated Woodpecker
- Northern Flicker
- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
- Hairy Woodpecker
- Red-headed Woodpecker
- Downy Woodpecker
It’s easy to mistake some woodpeckers for one another, with their similar colorations and behaviors, but these loud birds are more unique than you might think! Some eat sap instead of insects, while others sport impossible-to-miss plumage.
To make it easier to identify and appreciate these beautiful birds, we’ve compiled a list of the seven types of woodpeckers in Indiana, their size, what they like to eat, and where they can be found. After reading this post, you’ll be a birdwatcher in no time!
7 Types of Woodpeckers in Indiana
Indiana is a beautiful state all on its own, but its exciting wildlife makes it an even more fun destination. Woodpeckers are favorites of birdwatchers, not just because of their lovely plumage but because some of their behaviors are unlike any other birds.
1. Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Red-bellied Woodpecker Size: 9 to 11 inches
- Red-bellied Woodpecker Diet: Insects, seeds, fruit, nuts, and spiders.
- Where To See A Red-bellied Woodpecker: Year-round throughout Indiana. They love suet feeders, but when there isn’t one around, they will eat insects, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Although the Red-bellied Woodpecker does have red on its head, it is not the same as the Red-headed Woodpecker. Instead, this bird is named for its pale red belly.
The Red-bellied Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker, and they don’t migrate, so they can be seen all year long.
The males have a larger red cap than the females, and their bodies are pale while their wings are black with speckles of white. You’ll have to look closely to see the red on their bellies, but it’s there, even if it’s not as vibrant as the red on their heads!
If we were being more accurate, the Red-bellied Woodpecker would probably be called a woodplucker because of their habit of plucking tree bark off of the trunk to find prey instead of pecking deep into it.
Once they’ve peeled the bark away, the Red-bellied Woodpecker will use its 2-inch tongue, covered in sticky saliva, to retrieve insects inside the tree.
2. Pileated Woodpecker
- Pileated Woodpecker Size: 16-20 inches
- Pileated Woodpecker Diet: Mostly carpenter ants, but they will supplement their diet with other insects, fruits, nuts, and seeds when ants aren’t available.
- Where To See A Pileated Woodpecker: Another species that doesn’t migrate, the Pileated Woodpecker can be seen all year throughout Indiana, but prefers to frequent dead and rotten trees to hunt carpenter ants.
If you’re worried about not being able to see a woodpecker because of its small size, that concern isn’t necessary when it comes to the enormous Pileated Woodpecker. Reaching lengths of 20 inches, they are the largest woodpecker in the United States. (If the fabled Ivory Woodpecker really is extinct, that is.)
Dark black, with white undersides to their wings, and a white face with a black mask, the Pileated woodpecker might be considered dull in color if it wasn’t for their enormous, bright red crest!
This pointed bit of plumage looks like a mohawk and makes the Pileated Woodpecker stand out from all other Indiana species. Females lack the red mustache that males have.
They are friendly woodpeckers who visit backyard suet feeders if given the chance. Pileated Woodpeckers can also be identified by the rectangular holes they drill into rotten trees with their hard beaks.
3. Northern Flicker
- Northern Flicker Size: 11 to 12 inches
- Northern Flicker Diet: Ants from the ground. They will also eat beetles, and can be seen eating fruits and nuts.
- Where To See A Northern Flicker: Northern Indiana. The Northern Flicker will spend more time hunting on the ground than in trees and don’t care for bird feeders much.
Unlike the common woodpecker colors of red, black, and white, the Northern Flicker is a medium-sized brown woodpecker with dark speckles and a red cap on their heads.
Northern Flickers in Indiana also have yellow under feathers hidden in their tail and wing plumage that becomes obvious when they fly, hence the name Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker. Males have a black mustache.
You’ll find Yellow-shafted Northern Flickers in the Eastern United States, while in the Western United States, Northern Flickers have a salmon/red shaded under feather coloration and are called Red-shafted Northern Flickers.
Unlike the Pileated woodpecker, Northern Flickers won’t be too interested in your bird feeder. Bird baths, though, are another story; Northern Flickers love them! If you want to attract these woodpeckers to your yard, a heated bird bath is nearly irresistible to them.
While they can peck holes into trees to hunt like most other woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker will often be seen hunting on the ground, picking ants out from the soil with their beaks.
4. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Size: 7 to 9 inches
- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Diet: Tree sap from birch, hickory, or maple trees
- Where To See A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker: Forests all throughout Indiana, especially new-growth deciduous forests.
Where most woodpeckers are drilling into trees to find bugs, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is after something else entirely: tree sap!
As their name suggests, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker feeds predominantly on tree sap, removing it from the holes they peck into trees with their beaks. These holes are known as “sap wells.”
Sapsuckers have a brush-tipped tongue that is perfect for removing sap from trees, making them perfectly suited to their chosen diet.
They are beautiful woodpeckers with black and white striped bodies and yellow bellies and undercarriages. They have a distinctive long white steak on their wings, and the stripes on their bodies can appear wavy. They have a red crown, and males have a red throat.
5. Hairy Woodpecker
- Hairy Woodpecker Size: 7 to 10 inches
- Hairy Woodpecker Diet: Mostly insects like ants, nettles, larvae, and caterpillars. Hairy woodpeckers also drink sap when given the chance.
- Where To See A Hairy Woodpecker: In almost all Indiana forests, but also in suburban areas, and even cemeteries. These birds aren’t shy!
Easily confused with the Downy Woodpecker, the Hairy Woodpecker is actually a completely different species with its own unique behaviors. The Hairy Woodpecker is the quintessential woodpecker, preferring to spend its time high up in the treetops looking for insects in the tree trunks.
They have black and white patterned wings and a round head. Male Hairy Woodpeckers sport a red patch on the back of their heads.
If insects aren’t available, the Hairy Woodpecker will enjoy seeds, but they seek out another source of nutrition that is odd. The Hairy Woodpecker will drink sap from the sap wells left behind by the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, but as much as they love the sweet sap, they won’t drill their own holes.
6. Red-headed Woodpecker
- Red-headed Woodpecker Size: 7.5 to 9 inches
- Red-headed Woodpecker Diet: Insects, berries, seeds, and nuts.
- Where To See A Red-headed Woodpecker: Damp environments like forests and pine plantations. They prefer more open forests as opposed to dense tree cover.
One of the most unmistakable woodpeckers in the United States, Indiana included, is the Red-headed Woodpecker.
This gorgeous bird had black wings, a white belly, and a bright, scarlet-red head. The red color extends all the way down to the bird’s neck and covers the entire head. Males and females look the same.
Red-headed Woodpeckers are medium-sized birds with broad wings and round, crestless heads. They have strong beaks that can peck into almost any tree, which is helpful with how much this bird loves to eat.
Unlike the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, which prefers one type of food (sap), the Red-headed Woodpecker is anything but picky. They can catch insects during flight or pull them out of tree trunks and, shockingly, have even been seen eating the nestlings of other birds.
If protein, like insects, isn’t available, the Red-headed Woodpecker will supplement its diet with fruits and seeds. They aren’t often seen at bird feeders.
Red-headed Woodpeckers are also known for being extremely territorial, which can get them into trouble with larger birds.
Unfortunately, these brilliant birds are disappearing from all over the United States, including Indiana, because of habitat destruction. Red-headed Woodpeckers nest in dead trees, which are often removed to make room for new trees, further limiting the places the Red-headed Woodpecker can live.
Other factors like the growth in the population of invasive starlings and wildfires also contribute to this once-common bird rapidly approaching the precipice of being an endangered species. As of 2022, the Red-headed Woodpecker is listed as “Near Threatened.”
7. Downy Woodpecker
- Downy Woodpecker Size: 5.5 to 7 inches
- Downy Woodpecker Diet: Mostly insects, along with nuts and berries. They also love bird feeders but can be frightened away by larger birds and squirrels.
- Where To See A Downy Woodpecker: Almost anywhere through Indiana, including forests, suburbs, parks, and even in tall weeds.
With the Pileated woodpecker being the largest, the Downy Woodpecker is the smallest! These tiny birds only reach a maximum of 12 inches in length, and they appear almost delicate, with thin bodies and small beaks.
Downy Woodpeckers have black wings with white speckles, and the males of the species have a red cap on their heads.
If the woodpecker you’re seeing is moving rapidly around the trunk of a tree, it’s probably a Downy Woodpecker. These little birds move swiftly and are very agile, thanks to their diminutive size.
Because of how small they are, the Downy Woodpecker is just as content living in tall weeds as they are living among the trees.
Downy Woodpeckers are also big fans of the bird feeder, especially those filled with black oil sunflower seeds. Unfortunately, since they are so small, they can’t compete with larger birds like crows or jays, so if you want to draw them in, you’ll need to have feeders that cater to small birds.
Final Thoughts on Woodpeckers In Indiana
Woodpeckers are some of the most interesting birds in North America, and Indiana is home to many different species. From the massive Pileated Woodpecker to the tiny Downy Woodpecker, each species has its own unique characteristics.
If you’re lucky enough to spot a woodpecker in the wild, be sure to take some time to enjoy watching these amazing backyard birds. And if you want to attract them to your yard, consider hanging a suet feeder or filling a birdbath with fresh water. You’re sure to see some feathered friends in no time!