Woodpeckers in Florida

Not only do people go to Florida to escape the chilly northern winters, but migratory woodpeckers do the same to find a cozy refuge.

Eight species of woodpecker live year-round in Florida, while three more species travel there each year to spend the fall or winter months further south.

Florida’s pine woods are attractive to many woodpeckers, but sadly, many of them are being cut down or have already been because of the lumber industry, and many woodpecker populations have suffered as a result of habitat loss.

The red-headed woodpecker is one of 13 “extremely vulnerable” bird species that have been identified in a recent research conducted in Florida as being at danger of habitat and population decline as a result of climate change.

Blackwater State Forest, Anastasia State Park, Avalon State Park, and Olustee State Park are just a few of the Florida state parks that are renowned for providing excellent chances for bird viewing.

You could have the most luck sighting the most woodpecker species on the 8.1-mile Blackwater Heritage State Trail.

Along with several other non-woodpecker bird species, this route is home to the red-cockaded woodpecker, the downy woodpecker, the red-bellied woodpecker, and the pileated woodpecker.

Due to the abundance of resident species and the state’s accessibility, Florida is generally a haven for woodpecker watching; nonetheless, in order to ensure the continued existence of these unusual birds, please support efforts to preserve their habitat.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Florida is part of the “breeding and wintering range” for the Red-headed Woodpecker. The ideal time to observe one in Florida is during the winter months since they move to central-northern regions of the U.S. and southern Canada each season to breed.

They may be found in woods, particularly in the vicinity of dead or decaying trees and in marshy places, and are easily identified by their fiery-red heads.

Red-headed Woodpeckers, who prefer suet feeders, will occasionally stop by backyard feeders. Additionally, they consume seeds, maize, acorns, pecans, beechnuts, and a variety of fruits (including apples, pears, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, mulberries, and poison ivy fruits).

They are less frequent than other varieties of woodpeckers to observe at feeders and have a diminishing population.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

All year long, Red-bellied Woodpeckers may be seen in Florida. In Florida, red-bellied woodpecker sightings are a little more frequent in the summer.

Due to their red crowns, Red-bellied Woodpeckers might be confused for Red-headed Woodpeckers, however they are far smaller.

They might be difficult to see because of their extremely light red bellies. Over their backs, they bear the typical black and white patterns.

Red-bellied Particularly if you live close to forested regions, woodpeckers can frequently be spotted at bird feeders. Because of their characteristic booming rolling cry, you frequently hear them before you see them.

Red-bellied Insects, spiders, seeds from grasses, fruit, and nuts are all consumed by woodpeckers. They will occasionally devour nestlings as well. They may reuse the same nest year after year and build their nests on dead trees. On a bed of wood chips, they lay four to five white eggs.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker’s barbed tongue, which extends 2 inches behind the beak and has a sticky spit tip, aids in catching food from deep crevices.

Gold-Fronted Woodpecker

The tan/gold front coloring of the Golden-fronted Woodpecker gives rise to its appropriate name.

In addition to this distinguishing feature, adult males have white rumps that are visible when flying, as well as red coloring on the tops of their heads.

They enjoy open forests and dry scrub as habitat.

Oranges and jam may be used to entice them to feeders. As cavity nesters, they will raise their young, lay eggs, and live in hollowed-out trees, birdhouses, or other similar habitats.

On their lower tummy, females will have a more pronounced yellow coloring. Males can be aggressive and possessive. They consume insects like grasshoppers for food.

When may people in the state view this bird?

Any time of year, the golden-fronted woodpecker may be seen in Florida.

Since they do not migrate, they spend the full year in the southern United States and Central America.

Where in the state can one view this bird?

In the state’s northwest, golden-fronted woodpeckers have been sighted.

Since Florida is on the eastern boundary of its range, which extends from Texas to Nicaragua, it is unlikely that you will see them anywhere in Florida’s panhandle or along its eastern coast, however they occasionally make it as far west as Florida.

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

A Northern Flicker and a Red-bellied Woodpecker have similar body proportions, making it simple to first confuse the two birds, but their plumage is clearly different. The Flicker has a spotted breast, a solid black band below its throat, and brown back and wings that are both striped with black.

Both sexes of the flicker have a bright red patch on the rear of their heads, and both have a gray crown on their otherwise white heads. The only thing that sets the man apart is his mustache.

A flicker can also be recognized by its call and by what it is doing. It forages differently than other woodpeckers, typically in huge groups like robins, and it conducts some of its foraging on the ground. It can catch ants and beetles because to specific tongue modifications and a slightly bent bill.

As bats depart their roosts, flickers are known to feast on them and collect insects in midair. Their lengthy, powerful “Kikikiki!” cry reverberates over the habitat’s vast fields. The bird’s name refers to the way it shows its tail and flaps its wings when wooing or protecting its territory.

The red-shafted and yellow-shafted Northern Flickers have populations in the United States. The various colors may be seen in flight on the undersides of the wings and tail feathers as well as in the tails.

Yellow-shafted flickers are widespread in Florida, but red-shafted flickers are more frequent in western states, however their ranges do overlap in some areas of the Midwest. More than most other woodpeckers, flickers move regionally in search of food, but they may be seen at any time of year in Florida.

Hairy Woodpecker

Along with the Red-cockaded and the more prevalent Downy Woodpeckers, the Hairy Woodpeckers are one of the Dryobates species that reside in Florida.

The Hairy ones are often the biggest of the three, and they typically gnaw on trees with the biggest branches and trunks.

They are typically quite difficult to distinguish from the Downy. They are generally black and white, but have a bill that is about the size of their heads.

Additionally, you would typically see them attacking the biggest trunks while leaving the smaller ones for the Downy Woodpeckers.

Most Common Woodpecker

The most prevalent woodpecker in North America is the downy. Look for this unique feature in Florida’s Apalachicola National Forest, Blackwater State Forest, and Blackwater River State Forest.

Pileated Woodpecker

The biggest woodpecker to be found in Florida is the pileated. Here are some other characteristics to help you recognize them in addition to their size.

The cheeks and throats of these birds, which are primarily black, are striped with white.
A red crest is also seen on the top of their heads.

On their cheeks, male birds will have a red stripe, while females will have a black stripe.

Pileated woodpeckers like to reside in old-growth woods with lots of dead trees. Ants, termites, and beetles that drill into the rotting wood make up the majority of their meal. Additionally, these birds will eat fruits and nuts. Learn how to get pileated woodpeckers to visit your yard.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Given its name, one may anticipate that this bird would have a striking red mark. In reality, the only red is a small little stripe on the face, and it is only seen on the males. However, don’t try to identify this bird just on the little stripe. Without being really near, it is practically hard to see.

The bird’s wings have barred stripes, and its breast has a mottled pattern. The remainder of the bird is black and white. The head is white with black face and neck stripes, as well as a black crown. Males and females have extremely similar appearances.

This bird has been listed as endangered since 1970 and has been losing habitat as a result of forestry and suburban sprawl. It’s doubtful that you’ll see this in your backyard because it only occurs in old-growth, long-leaf pine woods.

Be warned that many of this bird’s habitats are protected and off-limits to the general public if you go bird hunting to find it. However, bird watchers might be able to secure authorization to conduct a search for them.

Downy Woodpecker

The fact that downy woodpeckers are the smallest woodpeckers in North America is one feature that sets them apart. Less than 5.7 inches is the maximum height the adults may attain.

They feature two shoulder pads at the rear of them and conspicuous white stripes running between them. They are white and black in hue. Despite this, they feature horizontal black and white wing bars and, on sometimes, black and white markings.

On the back of their necks, the male Downy woodpeckers have a recognizable red patch. The younger boys on the other side have red dots on their hats.

Additionally, compared to the majority of woodpecker species in the nation, their sounds are significantly softer. However, they choose the large deciduous woods found in the northern regions of their area for their habitat.

In its southern range, these amazing woodpeckers live in woodlands close to ponds, riverbanks, and other damp areas. Additionally, they are cavity nectars that typically nest on tree branches.

The Downy woodpeckers may be easily located year-round in Florida. However, throughout the fall, notably from September until the end of October, sightings might be made more often.

These woodpeckers are common at birdfeeders as well, and they often visit a new feeder first. Additionally, they enjoy suet and eat a variety of seeds, peanuts, and millet.

Normally, you can find them all across the state, but as you get south of the panhandle, the population density noticeably drops. Due to Florida’s southern position, you may look for Downy woodpeckers near riverbanks that are forested during the warmer months as that is their favorite habitat.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

In addition to Florida, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker also has a non-breeding range in the Southeast United States, Central America, Cuba, and the Bahamas. They spend the winter in Florida because they travel annually to Canada to reproduce.

Wintertime or late March and early April, when they travel north, would be ideal times to observe one. They are not frequently seen at bird feeders, and their main source of nutrition is sap. They use their lengthy tongues to extract sap from holes they drill into maple, elm, aspen, and birch trees. In addition to sap, they will consume a variety of insects.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Extremely Rare)

The ivory-billed woodpecker is incredibly uncommon. Many people think that they nest sooner in the spring than many other woodpeckers because they need a place to hide from the spring rains.

They frequently dig their cavities nests beneath a huge tree branch to provide themselves with a type of canopy for protection from these downpours.

The red mark on the top of the male ivory-billed woodpeckers’ heads resembles that of a pileated woodpecker.

The ivory-billed woodpeckers also adore eating grapevines; it is their favorite snack.

They are ferocious excavators, and within a day or two if they discover a tree of interest, you will probably see a big mound of wood chips at the base.

Swamps and areas where swamp meets woodland are favorable habitats for them. One of the biggest woodpeckers in the world, they are. It is thought that the ivory-billed woodpecker is practically gone.

When may people in the state view this bird?

The non-migratory ivory-billed woodpecker may be seen year-round in Florida.

Where in the state can one view this bird?

The world’s rarest woodpeckers include those with ivory bills. They are quite uncommon in the twenty-first century. If you see this rare bird, you might want to purchase a lotto ticket as well!

Piliated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

You’ve spotted Florida’s most stunning woodpecker if you hear what sounds like the knuckles of God himself striking a tree or witness a big bird flying that resembles a prehistoric crow with long, extended fingers.

The Piliated Woodpecker has a powerful beak that matches its enormous head in size. The heads of both the male and female birds are covered in a black and white pattern, while the undersides of their wings are predominantly white. The male is identified by a red moustache, however both wear a brilliant red “pompadour” as a crown.

They yell out in a loud, monotonous “Wuk!Wuk!Wuk!Wuk!” Although their drumming is a little slower than that of lesser woodpeckers, under the correct circumstances, a mile away, one can hear its deep, resonant tone.

In quest of ants and other insects, Pileated Woodpeckers bore distinctively rectangular-shaped holes in dead trees, often drilling so deeply that the trunk splits in half. Smaller birds that follow these large birds frequently exploit the cavities they leave behind as a source of food.

Piliated Woodpeckers will occasionally stop by backyard suet feeders despite their wild look. And, yes, in case you were wondering, the cartoon Woody Woodpecker was in fact inspired by their look and insane cry.

The Rarest Woodpecker

The rarest bird in the world is the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. It is indigenous to the Southern United States and Cuba. They are currently on the verge of extinction, but following a supposed sighting, attempts are being made to rediscover the species.

Final Thoughts

It’s possible that you might have seen a woodpecker even larger than the Piliated a century ago, and there are some daring naturalists who think you still may. The southern highland pine woods and flooded cypress swamps were previously home to the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

By the start of the 20th century, it was regarded as scarce, and in 1944, it was declared extinct. But throughout the years, accounts of individuals hearing or seeing the bird have led ornithologists to continue looking for it in Louisiana’s and Florida’s remote wilderness areas.

Two Floridians reported many sightings with what they thought to be a pair of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in Highlands County between 1967 and 1969.

A feather said to belong to one of the birds was found and is now at the Florida Museum of Natural History after a hurricane destroyed the tree where the birds were allegedly roosting. Since the feather could not be date, it was insufficient to demonstrate the presence of the birds.

The bad news is that you don’t have a great chance of seeing an Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Florida. The good news is that the Sunshine State still has a wide range of intriguing woodpeckers to see, and there are some fantastic spots to do it, from woodlands and swamplands to the feeders outside your kitchen window.