Woodpeckers In Iowa

Around 22 of the world’s roughly 300 woodpecker species may be found in the United States. I’ve discovered that Iowa is home to 7 of the 22 species of woodpecker. Of these seven species, some live in Iowa year-round while others only visit occasionally.

The Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker are the 7 species of woodpeckers that may be found in Iowa.

All seven of these woodpecker species found in Iowa will be discussed in this article. Each species will be described with a short description, some interesting facts, a photo to aid in identification, and information on where and how to locate it in the state of Iowa.

7 Types of Woodpeckers in Iowa

There are slightly fewer than 250 species of woodpeckers in the globe. There are just 22 species of woodpecker in the United States, with an amazing seven species being found in Iowa.

We’ll go through each of these seven species in this post. You’ll be able to discover some of their fascinating traits. Additionally, we have provided some entertaining information about each species.

Stop wasting time and learn everything there is to know about these intriguing birds.

Downy Woodpeckers

Due to their similar black-and-white coloration, the Downy Woodpecker and Hairy Woodpecker practically resemble each other in size. The former, however, has a checkerboard pattern on its wings. They also have prominent stripes on their heads, and the males have a red mark on the rear of their skulls.

Birds that are adults range in size from a sparrow to a robin. As a result, it is regarded as the smallest species of woodpecker in both Iowa and all of North America.

In addition to living in cemeteries, empty lots, and municipal parks, Downy Woodpeckers can also be found in open forests. They build their nests in dead trees or dead tree trunks, just like Hairy Woodpeckers do.

The Hairy Woodpeckers, their bigger cousins, have a diet that is remarkably similar to theirs. They mostly consume insect larvae from tree branches. But they also like fruits and seeds, which make up 25% of their nutritional requirements.

Downy Woodpeckers are year-round residents of Iowa and do not migrate during the winter. They frequently consume suet feeder food, nibble on black sunflower seeds, and drink nectar from hummingbird feeders.

Map of the Downy Woodpecker’s Range & Migration

The downy woodpecker may be found very much everywhere in the United States, with sightings reported in places like Florida and Alaska! There’s a good possibility you’ll see this bird in your yard if the weather is moderate enough and not too sunny. On the continent, there are around 13 million of them.

Hairy Woodpecker

Although hairy woodpeckers and downy woodpeckers have a similar appearance, hairy woodpeckers are distinguishable from downy woodpeckers by their size. Additionally, they have longer bills that are almost as long as their heads.

They have black and white bodies. The adult males have a little red mark on the back of their heads, which helps you distinguish between the sexes.

The downy woodpecker, this species’ relative, is more prevalent in Iowa than these woodpeckers are. Nevertheless, if you’re persistent, you might still be able to spot them in parks, suburban neighborhoods, cemeteries, and other peaceful forested or open spaces. Additionally, they go to backyard suet feeders in suburbs.

Hairy woodpeckers, like its cousin the downy woodpecker, remain in one location all year long and do not migrate during the colder months. They live inside the crevices of dead trees.

The Journal of Wildlife Management research indicated that they like freshly burnt woodlands because they have an abundance of food there.

Because of habitat loss, populations have been falling over the last few decades. Invasive birds like European starlings, which take over their breeding areas, put strain on them as well.

Map of the Hairy Woodpecker’s Range & Migration

Where do I begin? Although you often find this Picidae amid conifers, it is not particularly tolerant to harsh climates. There are more than 8 million of these birds on the continent, and their population is expanding; there is no one state where they are more common than others.

Pileated Woodpecker

The eastern half of Iowa is the only part of the state where the pileated woodpecker spends the whole year. They frequently build their nests high up in tall trees’ deadwood or inside utility poles. Carpenter ants are one of their favorite foods, and in order to locate them, they will drill rectangular holes deep into the wood.

They will also consume nuts, berries, and even the berries from poison ivy. Although they often stay in the trees, you may occasionally spot them scavenging for food on the ground.

Although the majority of these unusual birds are black and white, they stick out thanks to their vivid red crest. A red stripe may also be seen on the males’ sides of their faces. These are substantial birds, around the size of a crow. They are, in fact, the biggest woodpeckers in Iowa.

The pileated woodpecker doesn’t migrate; instead, it spends its whole existence in one location. If the eggs fall out, they will, however, relocate their nest to a neighboring location.

This species is most likely the inspiration for the cartoon bird Woody Woodpecker. When contrasting the cartoon bird with these woodpeckers, it’s simple to observe the similarities.

Map of the Pileated Woodpecker’s Migration & Range

The pileated woodpecker does not frequently change its preferred living location. Though it may be found as far north as Nova Scotia, you’ll mostly find it in eastern states. It’s also not unheard of to see this common Picidae if you’re from California.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers

You might first wish to refer to this species of woodpecker as the Red-headed Woodpecker. Although this term is only given to the following, far more elusive species.

Red-bellied woodpeckers are about the size of a swallow or a robin. On the centre of their heads, they have a red stripe. Additionally, they have pale red bellies, which can be difficult to see when they are close to a feeder or a tree.

As a substitute, keep an eye out for the red stripe that resembles a mohawk to distinguish them from their less prevalent, totally Red-headed cousins. A further distinction from the Red-headed Woodpecker’s complete black and white colors is the striped pattern on their backs.

Red-bellied woodpeckers are mostly found in oak and hickory woodlands, while they can also be found in young pine and hardwood forests. They may also be seen in marshes and along riverbanks, where they can be spotted eating tiny fish.

They may also be found in the suburbs, where there are plenty of trees for them to nest inside and use as food sources. They engage in an intriguing form of nesting whereby they return to the same hole in the same tree each year or make a brand-new hole.

Their primary food sources include insects, seeds, and arthropods. However, luscious fruits like grapes, oranges, and mangoes are their preferred munchies. They have have been observed consuming lizards, smaller birds, and minnows.

If you have a suet feeder, you can see them in your backyard because they spend all year in Iowa.

Map of the Red-bellied Woodpecker’s Migration

From Texas to Florida, these woodpeckers are frequently seen in the eastern and southern states. They don’t frequently travel since they will rob other birds of their breeding sites.

Red-headed Woodpecker

The red-headed woodpecker is beautiful. Their bodies are white, and their wings are pure black with a large white patch. However, their dark crimson heads and necks, which are so vivid they resemble velvet, are what really set them apart.

The youngsters have pale red cheeks, white markings on their wings, and a brownish-black body.

The Rocky Mountains’ western flank is beyond limits to them, but you can find them all throughout the east, from Canada to Florida. In Iowa, these woodpeckers are year-round residents. Offering them some citrus or suet will lure them to your yard in the winter.

One of the few woodpeckers that enjoys storing food for the winter is this one. They insert seeds and nuts into tree cavities or bark. Even food has been found to be hidden behind shingles, a practice that irks homeowners.

Additionally, they seek their prey by catching flying insects. That is not typical woodpecker behavior.

Map of the Red-headed Woodpecker’s Migration & Range
The eastern and central United States, as well as northern Canada, are frequently visited by these acorn-foraging birds. They do, however, prefer the warmer regions and frequently visit Florida and southern New Mexico.

Northern Flicker

These gorgeous birds with speckled bellies and vibrant colors are around 1.5 times larger than Hairy Woodpeckers. A bright-yellow hue may be seen on the underside of the wings and tail of the Northern Flicker seen in Iowa. The cheeks of the males also bear crimson markings.

Large clearings with a scattering of trees are preferred by northern flickers, which can be found in suburban areas, city parks, open fields, and forest borders. Additionally, wetlands like marsh borders, riverbanks, and flooded swamps draw them in.

They mostly eat insects that they pick up from the ground, such as ants and beetles. With their strong beaks, these resourceful birds seek for food underground in a manner much to how other woodpeckers locate food in trees.

They consume seeds and fruits including elderberries, bayberries, hackberries, and wild cherries during the winter. They also consume the seeds of dogwood, sumac, poison ivy, poison oak, and ivy.

The Northern Flickers build their nests in abandoned bird burrows or in the same nest they used in prior seasons. Although their nests can occasionally soar beyond 100 feet in height, they prefer to build them from 6 to 15 feet off the ground.

They aren’t well recognized for being excellent backyard feeders, but you can draw them in by hanging a nesting box in the right size from a tree. Simply be sure to set it up well before their mating season and install a predator guard to safeguard the eggs and young.

Map of the Northern Flicker Range and Migration

The yellow-shafted form of Northern Flickers, at least, may be found far up in the northwest portions of Alaska and even down towards the west coast. Northern Flickers typically dwell in the east. According to estimates, there are currently up to ten million individuals of this species of flickers in North America.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

The eastern portion of the US is home to the yellow-bellied sapsucker, which migrates south for the winter. Only when traveling between their breeding and non-breeding areas do they pass through Iowa.

The majority of these birds are black and white, with white bellies, black and white banded wings, and a black and white back. Males and females may be distinguished from one another because the male’s neck is vividly crimson. Contrarily, females have a whitish throat. Males and females both have crimson foreheads.

The bellies of the females have a little yellow tint, but it might be so undetectable that you might not be able to tell until you come near, which they will absolutely not allow.

With their beaks, these sapsuckers make tiny holes in trees, then they wait for the tasty sap to drip out. Along with any insects that scurry by and become lodged in the fluid, they lick this up.

Although they primarily stay in wooded regions, you could spot them hanging out at your backyard suet feeder. They lack the audacity of some of their woodpecker relatives.

Map of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker’s Range and Migration

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the most migratory woodpecker in the world, wintering in Panama and the Caribbean and breeding as far north as eastern Arkansas and the northern boreal forest.

Although this species migrates from the central plains and lower midwest southward towards the west of the Appalachians, it often inhabits woodland areas like other native US sapsuckers.

How to Attract Iowa Woodpeckers to Your Yard

Many of us take great pleasure in luring woodpeckers to our feeders or yards. They offer some excitement and are nearly as frequent as chickadees, titmice, or cardinals. However, they are more elusive and more difficult to draw in. The following advice can help you get woodpeckers in your yard.

Provide them with food they enjoy — A variety of woodpeckers are known to frequent bird feeders. Think about hanging a suet feeder and providing black sunflower seeds. Get a suet feeder with a tail prop area so you can draw bigger woodpeckers to it.

Leave dead trees alone because woodpeckers enjoy them since they are simple to drill holes in and have an abundance of insect larvae to consume.

Install nest boxes. A variety of woodpecker species will utilize nest boxes. From May through July, pileated woodpeckers typically use nesting boxes.

Plant trees and plants that yield fruit local to your area. Woodpeckers occasionally like fruits and berries like those found on dogwood, tupelo, mountain ash, strawberry, cherry, grapes, bayberry, holly, blueberries, apples, mulberries, brambles, and elderberries.

Don’t forget the water: Woodpeckers utilize birdbaths much as other birds do, so make sure there is a water supply nearby. If possible, install a solar fountain or water mover to help attract woodpeckers. The greatest solar fountains typically include batteries in them so that the water doesn’t stop flowing every time the sun disappears behind a cloud.


The American Goldfinch is the recognized state bird of the Hawkeye state, which now boasts 390 different bird species. But none of these compare to the diligent woodpecker.

We listed the seven varieties of woodpeckers found in Iowa in our post. Now that you can watch each class eating or drilling away, you can quickly locate and recognize each one.

You may also try placing a feeder and a water dish in your backyard to entice woodpeckers. You won’t be able to fully appreciate these wonderful birds until then.