Some northern flickers do migrate

Do Woodpeckers Migrate?: 9 Species That Tend To Migrate

Do woodpeckers migrate? If you want to learn about a woodpecker’s migration, you are in the right place! So just where do woodpeckers go in the winter? Some woodpeckers migrate from Canada down to Mexico, and others stay put. To learn all about woodpeckers’ migration habits, we will highlight some more common species.

Woodpeckers are worldwide; however, it’s interesting how they are absent from Australia, New Guinea, and Madagascar. In North America, we have 22 species of woodpeckers that breed here, and recently one, of the Ivory-billed woodpeckers, became extinct. As of 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has officially declared the Ivory-billed Woodpecker extinct.

Woodpeckers are active during the day, and do their migrating during daylight hours. A woodpecker is not active at nighttime.

Do Woodpeckers Fly South for the Winter?

It turns out some woodpecker species remain year-round in the region where they nest, and others migrate south during winter. Yes, some woodpecker species do fly south for the winter. However, there are plenty of other woodpecker species that stay put. 

Some woodpecker species like the Pileated, Red-bellied, Downy, and Hairy will fatten up on insects, suet from bird feeders, acorns, and nuts. Eating this fattening food allows them to survive cold winters and not migrate south. Some regions like the woodpeckers of Oregon have permanent birds.

Do Downy Woodpeckers Migrate?

The Downy woodpecker does not migrate but will fly around to neighboring regions. It’s a  black and white woodpecker, and the males have a red patch on their nape. They are a small woodpecker with a short stubby bill. The Downy Woodpecker is a resident of Alaska, Canada, and parts of the US; however, they are not usually in the Southwest region.

Do Pileated Woodpeckers Migrate?

The Pileated Woodpecker does not migrate.  Although residents of Canada, Northern California, Idaho, North Dakota, Central Texas, and Florida may fly around their region. The Pileated Woodpecker is a large bird compared to some of the other smaller woodpecker species.

The Pileated woodpecker is about 17″ compared to the smaller Downy Woodpecker, only 6 inches. However, despite their large size, they are often hard to watch due to their shy nature.

Do Red-Headed Woodpeckers Migrate?

Yes, A Red-Headed Woodpecker will migrate south to Florida and the Gulf Coast from breeding grounds in Canada. The red-headed woodpecker will store acorns and nuts in holes and crevices of tree trunks. You can frequently find them in the open country, farms, and groves of trees.

Woodpeckers That Migrate – Do Woodpeckers Migrate?

Do woodpeckers migrate? Yes, some do, and here is a list of those who migrate according to the National Audobon Society Field Guide for Birds. There are so many unique facts about woodpeckers, and the fact that some migrate and some do not, is just one of the many. Do woodpeckers migrate? Yes, there are nine species of woodpeckers that migrate.

#1 Hairy Woodpecker (Do Woodpeckers Migrate?)

Hairy Woodpecker is a migrating bird

The Hairy Woodpecker is a forest-dwelling bird. You can find the Hairy Woodpecker living in Alaska, Canada, the United States, and the Gulf of Mexico. The National Audobon Society Field Guide for Birds says that some Hairy woodpeckers from northern regions migrate south for the winter.

#2 Lewis’s Woodpecker

Lewis's Woodpecker is a migrating bird - sitting in a tree

The Lewis’s woodpecker migrates south for the winter. When they migrate south they are one of the birds that will fly through the night. Then in the winter, the bird will fly south to Southern British Columbia, Oregon, Colorado, Northern Mexico, and the Great Plains. They are usually found breeding in Canada, California, Northern Arizona, and Northern New Mexico.

#3 Red-Headed Woodpecker

red headed woodpecker sitting on a log

The Red-Headed Woodpecker will migrate to Florida and the Gulf Coast from its breeding grounds in Canada. The red-headed woodpecker caches acorns and nuts in tree trunks’ holes and crevices. You can frequently see them in rural areas, farms, and groves of trees in the open fields.

#4 Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker in Brooklyn, NY

You can find the Red-Bellied woodpecker throughout the midwest, Northeast, and Southeast United States. The red belly woodpecker is black with red on its lower abdomen, nape, crown; white wing patches; and a striped back. The Red-Bellied is one of the woodpecker species that store food.

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker does sometimes migrate south for the winter. Moreover, they are one of the common woodpeckers in NY that you’ll see in the spring and summer throughout Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan.

#5 Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker (Do Woodpeckers Migrate?)

Yellow-bellied sap sucker does migrate south for the winter

The yellow-bellied sapsucker does migrate south for winter. The yellow-bellied sapsucker is a smallish woodpecker having red crowns. You find them breeding in Canada, Newfoundland, North Dakota, Missouri, New England, and North Carolina. The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker flies south for the winter; they usually end up anywhere from Missouri to New Jersey, Florida, Texas, and Central America. They are known as one of the quietest woodpecker species.

#6 Red-naped Sapsucker

The Red-naped sapsucker migrates short distances

The Red-naped sapsucker migrates short distances. In mid-to-late August, the Red-naped Sapsucker begins migrating south for wintering sites in Mexico and the southwestern United States. They start moving north again in early March or early April. The Red-naped Sapsucker is a distinguishing bird with black and white feathers and a red cap. It’s closely related to the Yellow-Bellied and Red-Breasted Sapsuckers. All three were considered one species until 1983 when researchers found distinct birds.

#7 Northern Flicker

Some northern flickers do migrate

The Flickers reside in Alaska, Newfoundland, Florida, and Mexico. They are the only brown-backed woodpeckers and the only ground feeders. The Northern Flickers migrate; however, only the northernmost species will migrate.

#8 Williamson’s Sapsucker

male Williamson’s Sapsucker

Williamson’s Sapsucker migrates a short to medium distance depending on food sources. You can find them breeding in the western part of Canada, down through California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico. More importantly, you can find them west of Texas. The males are mostly black, and the females have a black and white variegated pattern on their back.

#9 Red-breasted Sapsucker

Does the Red-breasted Sapsucker migrate? Yes

Although the Red-Breasted Sapsucker does not migrate far, we will include it on our list of woodpeckers that migrate. They live on the western coast of Canada down through California and into Mexico. They migrate short distances, even though they mainly reside in a temperate climate. The coastal birds may not migrate and become permanent residents of an area.


What Woodpeckers Do Not Usually Migrate?

Above, we took a look at woodpeckers that tend to migrate. Now we will focus on those who do not migrate.

We will go over where you can find them year-round.

Golden Fronted Woodpecker

The Golden Fronted Woodpecker has a Southwestern Oklahoma and Central Texas home range. It will stay in its breeding grounds all year long. It’s a close relative of the Red-Bellied Woodpecker that we find in the Southeastern United States.

Ladder Backed Woodpecker

The Ladder Backed Woodpecker is a small (7″) non-migratory bird that resides in the southwestern US from California to Texas and into the tropics. It loves to hang out in yards and parks.

Downy Woodpecker

The Downy Woodpecker does not migrate. Instead, they are found all over the US and Canada. Except the Southwest US. The Downy is one of the most abundant woodpeckers in the US. They prefer to hang out in woodlands, parks, and gardens.

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

A small woodpecker called the Red-cockaded Woodpecker measures approximately 8″. It resides in southeastern Oklahoma, Maryland,  and Florida’s gulf coast. The Red-cockaded will stay in the exact location all year long. However, it is on the endangered species list. Researches say that there are only about 10,000 left in the wild.

Three-Toed Woodpecker

The Three-Toed Woodpecker resides in Canada, Alaska, the Northern US, and the mountains of Arizona and New Mexico. Their range extends to the Rockies; however, they rarely move far from home.

Black-Backed Woodpecker

You will find the Black-backed Woodpeckers in Canada and Alaska, Wyoming down into California. They’re usually pretty stationary, but they will move if food becomes scarce, or they frequently visit dead trees where they will forage for beetle larvae.

Do Woodpeckers Hibernate?

They do not hibernate in the traditional sense of the word like a bear or a skunk. However, a skunk goes into a state of torpor and does not fully hibernate either. However, the woodpeckers that do not migrate south for the winter will slow down. They will lose a small percentage of their body weight during the winter months, and they also go through periods of inactivity where their metabolic rate is very low. They will often chisel out a nesting hole in a tree, where they can keep warm all winter.

What do Pileated Woodpeckers Eat in the Winter?

They love to forage on dead trees and stumps. Often timber people will leave a few dead trees behind for the birds to forage through. You will often find a dead tree with lines of woodpecker holes. Pileated woodpeckers usually stay around in the winter, which means they will forage for whatever food they can find. They love carpenter ants, and you will often find active carpenter ants even in the winter, which is suitable for the Pileated woodpecker.

What Do Woodpecker Bird Houses Look Like?

What Do Woodpecker Bird Houses Look Like?

The two main points are height and hole size. How high you put your woodpecker house is essential because it ensures that the woodpeckers will not have to compete for territory with other birds. So, place them 15-20 feet off the ground to ensure they feel comfortable. When you are trying to attract a woodpecker, make sure the size of the hole matches the woodpecker’s size. Going with a giant hole will attract larger woodpeckers such as Pileated and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers.

Final Thoughts for Do Woodpeckers Migrate?

Woodpeckers are a fascinating group of birds. They have many different behaviors and characteristics that make them unique from other avian species. One such behavior is remarkable migration, which some types engage in but others do not. Woodpeckers reside all over the United States. The Ladder Backed Woodpecker prefers living in yards or parks, while the Downy likes woodlands, gardens, orchards, and groves for habitat preference. All these interesting facts about our feathered friends should be enough to convince you to build your woodpecker birdhouse!