7 Types of Woodpeckers in Maryland

Almost everyone has seen a woodpecker at least once in their life, and if you haven’t seen one, then there is a good chance you’ve at least heard one! With their bright colors, loud pecking on tree trunks that can echo, and their equally loud calls to one another, woodpeckers are not subtle birds.

Male Downy Woodpecker
Male Downy Woodpecker

More difficult than just seeing a woodpecker is identifying it, especially if you live in a state like Maryland where there are seven different species of woodpeckers!

In Maryland, you can find the following woodpeckers:

  1. Red-headed Woodpecker
  2. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  3. Northern Flicker
  4. Downy Woodpecker
  5. Pileated Woodpecker
  6. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  7. Hairy Woodpecker

Where and when these woodpeckers will appear is difficult to determine, but with a little investigation, you’ll be spotting woodpeckers in no time! In this post, we’ll review the seven species of woodpeckers in Maryland. 

7 Types of Woodpeckers in Maryland

Spotting a woodpecker in Maryland is easy enough, but determining which type of woodpecker it is can be a little more complicated! With seven woodpecker species to choose from, it can be difficult to decipher what exactly you’re looking at unless you know about the differences between each species. 

Below, we’ll describe everything you’ll need to know about the seven species of woodpeckers in Maryland, including their size, diets, and where they are most likely to appear!

1. Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker on tree.
Red-headed Woodpecker
  • Red-headed Woodpecker Size: 7.5 to 9 inches 
  • Red-headed Woodpecker Diet: Insects, berries, seeds, nuts, and larvae. 
  • Where To See A Red-headed Woodpecker: All throughout the state of Maryland anytime during the year, since they don’t migrate south for the winter. 

Once a common sight among American birdwatchers, the Red-headed Woodpecker has experienced a sharp decline in population that has made this once easy-to-find bird a rarity. 

The Red-headed Woodpecker is impossible to miss with its solid red head and drastic black and white body plumage. Males and females look alike.

Red-headed Woodpecker perched on an ice-covered branch following winter storm.
Red-headed Woodpecker

Luckily, your chances of seeing this bird in Maryland are increased due to the fact that these woodpeckers aren’t ones to fly south for the winter, and their scarlet heads are easier to see against the white snow.

To survive these cold winters, the Red-headed Woodpecker will store extra food inside trees.

Red-headed Woodpeckers are also one of the four species of American woodpeckers that can catch insects mid-flight, and not just from inside trees. 

2. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Male Red-bellied Woodpecker on a tree with a seed in its beak.
Male Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker Size: 9 to 11 inches 
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker Diet: Insects, spiders, seeds, fruits, and nuts. 
  • Where To See A Red-bellied Woodpecker: Year-round in Maryland, and they aren’t picky about what kind of trees they roost in.

A little more subtle than the similarly-named Red-headed Woodpecker, the Red-bellied Woodpecker has a pale red stomach, brown body, and black and white speckled wings. They aren’t as flashy as other species, but they make up for it with how adaptable they are. 

While other woodpecker populations seem to be decreasing, the easy-to-please Red-bellied Woodpecker population is actually increasing! This is because, unlike some woodpeckers, they don’t have specific dietary needs or a certain type of tree they need to live in.

Female Red-bellied Woodpecker on tree.
Female Red-bellied Woodpecker

Adaptability is the name of the game for the Red-bellied Woodpecker, making them one of the easiest to spot in Maryland.

Males have a red stripe from their bill to the nape of their neck, while the red stripe starts at the top of the female’s head and runs to the nape of its neck. Females also have a red spot near their bills in between their eyes.

3. Northern Flicker

Female Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker Woodpecker on tree branch.
Female Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker Size: 11 to 12 inches
  • Northern Flicker Diet: Insects, usually ants from the ground, but they will also supplement their diets with seeds and nuts. 
  • Where To See A Northern Flicker: Another year-round woodpecker, you’re more likely to see the Northern Flicker hunting for bugs on the ground, but they can also be seen pecking at trees, too. 

At first glance, you might be tempted to call the Northern Flicker a dull-colored bird, but when they spread their wings and tail feathers to fly, there is no denying how brilliant they are! 

Northern Flickers are brown and gray on the body, speckled with black all over, and with a black collar.

They have colored feathers on their underwings: red for the appropriately named Red-shafted Northern Flickers in the Western US, and yellow for Yellow-shafted Northern Flickers in the Eastern US, like Maryland.

Yellow-shafted Northern Flickers have a red spot on the nape of their necks. Male Yellow-shafted Northern Flickers have black mustaches.

These common woodpeckers might take you off guard when you first see them on the ground, but they aren’t injured. Northern Flickers love to hunt bugs out of the dirt, unlike other woodpeckers who will only hunt in trees!

4. Downy Woodpecker

Comparison between Male (top) and Female (bottom) Downy Woodpeckers. Male has a red nape and is darker overall.
Male and Female Downy Woodpeckers
  • Downy Woodpecker Size: 5.5-6.5 inches
  • Downy Woodpecker Diet: A big fan of birdseed from a bird feeder, the Downy woodpecker will also forage for nuts, seeds, fruit, and insects.
  • Where To See A Downy Woodpecker: Tall weeds and trees. Downy Woodpeckers are also frequent backyard visitors. 

Black and white in color, the tiny Downy Woodpecker also features a red scalp in the males of the species, while the females maintain a black head. 

Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest species of woodpecker in Maryland, and also one of the most feeder-friendly. Stock up on sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet to keep this tiny bird visiting year after year. 

A male Downy Woodpecker perched on a tree branch.
Male Downy Woodpecker

Like the Red-bellied Woodpecker, the Downy Woodpecker isn’t too picky about where they live, either. Any type of forest, or even woodpecker-specific nesting boxes, are fine homes for these little birds. 

5. Pileated Woodpecker

Pair of Pileated Woodpecker male and female birds eating bugs from a stump in the springtime.
Female and Male Pileated Woodpeckers

Next, we go from the smallest woodpecker in Maryland, the Downy Woodpecker, to the largest: the Pileated Woodpecker. These woodpeckers are the biggest species in North America, and their large frames are topped with a bright red crest that is unmistakable.

  • Pileated Woodpecker Size: 16-20 inches 
  • Pileated Woodpecker Diet: When carpenter ants are not accessible, they will augment their diet with other insects, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
  • Where To See A Pileated Woodpecker: In older forests where they can find rotting wood, where their favorite prey, the carpenter ant, resides. 
Female Pileated Woodpecker parent set to feed its three hungry chicks.
Female Pileated Woodpecker and hungry chicks.

Besides the bright red mohawk crest, the Pileated Woodpecker appears to be solid black until they spread their wings and you can see the white underneath. Males have a red malar stripe (mustache) on their cheek.

Pileated Woodpeckers can be found in young and old forests alike, but they prefer the latter because old forests are more likely to have felled, rotting trees. In a dead tree you’ll find carpenter ants, the main diet of the Pileated Woodpecker.

6. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Woodpecker perching on a tree branch
Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Woodpecker
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Size: 7 to 9 inches
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Diet: Tree sap from trees like birches and maples. 
  • Where To See A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker:do They can be found in trees that have a lot of sap, like maples. 

One of the most adorable woodpeckers on our list is the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. These stout birds have a black and white patterned body with a black bib, yellow chests, and red on both the top of their heads and underneath their bills. Females have a white chin.

As their name suggests, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker eats tree sap in the place of insects or other plant matter. They use their tough beak to drill a line of symmetrical holes in the trunk of a tree, where they will use their brushy tongue to extract sap. 

Female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Woodpecker on tree.
Female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Woodpecker

Although Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are rare in Maryland, they play an important part in their ecosystem. The holes left by these birds can be used by other woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and insects as places to eat and survive. 

7. Hairy Woodpecker

Male Hairy Woodpecker on a branch in summer.
Male Hairy Woodpecker
  • Hairy Woodpecker Size: 7 to 10 inches
  • Hairy Woodpecker Diet: Ants, nettles, larvae, and caterpillars are some of the most common insects. When given the opportunity, Hairy Woodpeckers consume sap.
  • Where To See A Hairy Woodpecker: All year long in Maryland. Hairy woodpeckers need larger trees and more land than other similar birds. 

The oversized Downy Woodpecker look-alike, the Hairy Woodpecker is both rarer than its smaller cousin and has a much larger, stronger beak. Otherwise, they look nearly identical to the Downy Woodpecker, with a black and white body and red-capped head. Females lack the red spot on their heads.

Female Hairy Woodpecker at a hole of a pine tree.
Female Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpeckers use this large beak to fish insects out of trees. Their pecking noise is very loud and is often heard before the bird is seen. 

Hairy Woodpeckers are also big fans of bird feeders, especially suet feeders!

Final Thoughts: Woodpeckers In Maryland

Woodpeckers are some of the most interesting birds in North America. These fascinating creatures come in all shapes and sizes, and each one has its own unique set of behaviors and habits. If you live in Maryland, you’re in luck, because there are many different types of woodpeckers that call this state home.

If you want to attract woodpeckers to your backyard, try putting up a bird feeder and/or a suet feeder or a nesting box or bird house. You’re sure to see some of these beautiful birds in no time!

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