Woodpeckers in Florida

9 Types of Woodpeckers in Florida: A Friendly Guide

Woodpeckers in Florida – A guide! Florida is known for its diverse wildlife and lush landscapes and is home to a fantastic array of woodpeckers. 


Woodpeckers play a critical role in maintaining the health of the forests and ecosystems they inhabit. They are nature’s pest control, feeding on insects that can damage trees and even building their nests within the trees they protect. Check out our complete article on what a woodpecker eats

These birds offer a mesmerizing sight as they drum on tree trunks or display their striking colors during mating rituals. By learning about the various species of woodpeckers in Florida, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the delicate balance of nature and discover the beauty these remarkable creatures bring to your local environment.

Critical Takeaways for Woodpeckers in Florida

  • The article explores the characteristics and behaviors of 10 types of woodpeckers found in Florida. 
  • Woodpeckers are crucial to maintaining ecosystems as they control pests and create habitats in trees.
  • Familiarizing yourself with different species enhances your appreciation for nature’s beauty and balance.

Fundamentals of Woodpeckers

Woodpeckers in Florida

Let’s first look at some essential characteristics that all woodpeckers share.

Physical traits: As you’ve probably noticed, woodpeckers have distinctive features that set them apart from other birds. Most notably, they possess solid and chisel-like beaks that allow them to drill into wood in search of insects and create cavities for nesting. 

A woodpecker’s feet are also specialized, featuring two toes facing forward and two facing backward, which provides a stable grip on tree trunks as they climb. Check out fun facts about woodpeckers!

Drumming: Aside from pecking at wood for food, woodpeckers often use their beaks to drum on objects like trees and metal poles. This drumming is their way of communicating with one another, especially during mating season. 

If you hear a woodpecker drumming nearby, chances are it’s establishing its territory or signaling a potential mate. But if you hear drumming at night, it’s probably not a woodpecker. Learn more about woodpecker sounds at night here.

Diet: Woodpeckers peck into trees primarily to locate insects hiding inside the bark. Their diet will mainly consist of arthropods such as ants, beetles, and other wood-boring insects. Apart from insects, woodpeckers eat fruits, nuts, and berries when available.

Now that you have a general understanding of woodpeckers and their behavior, you can appreciate the unique traits of the ten woodpeckers in Florida. Each species varies in size, color, and habitat preferences but shares the abovementioned fundamental characteristics.

So next time you’re outdoors, watch for these fascinating birds and enjoy your newfound knowledge of Florida’s diverse woodpeckers.

Woodpeckers in Florida – A Guide On Which Ones You’ll See

Red-Bellied Woodpecker – A Florida Woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker in Florida


The Red-Bellied Woodpecker is a widespread medium woodpecker that you will find fascinating. As its name suggests, it has a subtle reddish wash (hardly noticeable) on its belly. What’s funny is that when you spot one, you’ll mostly notice the red head becasue the belly is barely red in color.

Its back showcases a unique black and white striped pattern, while its head features a striking red cap and nape. The males have a more pronounced redhead; the females have a touch of gray.


In Florida, you’ll likely spot Red-Bellied Woodpeckers in various wooded areas. They enjoy making their homes in swamps, pine forests, and hardwood hammocks. You can also find them in your backyard, as long as trees are present for them to make cavities for nesting.


When it comes to food, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers are adaptable. Their diet mainly consists of:

  • Insects, such as ants, beetles, and termites
  • Fruits and berries
  • Tree nuts and seeds

They also don’t hesitate to visit bird feeders, allowing you to observe their unique feeding habits up close.

Downy Woodpecker – A Woodpecker in Florida

Downy woodpeckers in Florida


The Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) is a remarkable little bird you might encounter while exploring Florida. It’s the smallest woodpecker in North America, with an average length of just 5.5-6.7 inches. You’ll recognize this charming creature with its black and white plumage, and if you’re lucky enough to see a male, you’ll spot a red patch on the back of its head.


In Florida, you’ll find Downy Woodpeckers in various wooded areas such as forests, swamps, and even your backyard! They favor deciduous trees but are also known to live in mixed or coniferous forests.

These adaptable birds don’t mind living close to humans, so keep an eye out for them nesting in your neighborhood or visiting your bird feeder.


Downy’s diet mainly consists of insects, but they also enjoy plant materials. As a bug hunter, you’ll see them foraging on tree trunks, bark, and branches, searching for insects such as:

  • Beetles
  • Ants
  • Caterpillars
  • Other insects underneath the tree bark

Downy Woodpeckers occasionally switch things up by eating seeds and berries, particularly during colder months when insects are less available. So, if you wish to attract them, consider setting up a bird feeder offering:

  • Black oil sunflower seeds
  • Suet
  • Peanut butter mixtures

Remember to be patient and attentive; you may see one of these endearing woodpeckers in Florida.

Hairy Woodpecker – One of the Common Florida Woodpeckers

Hairy woodpecker in Florida


The Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) is a medium-sized bird you can easily recognize by its distinctive black-and-white plumage. It has a black body, white back, and prominent white wing patches.

The male showcases a flashy red spot on the back of its head, while females lack this marking. As you observe them, you’ll notice their long, sturdy beaks and strong tails supporting them as they move across tree trunks.


Hairy Woodpeckers are versatile, making their homes in various habitats throughout Florida. You can find them in mature forests, wooded swamps, suburban areas, and parks or backyards.

Hairy’s are more inclined to reside in areas with many dead trees or snags, providing plenty of opportunities to drill for food and create nesting cavities.


What fuels these energetic birds? Hairy Woodpeckers have a diverse diet, including:

  • Insects: Wood-boring beetles, ants, and caterpillars comprise a significant portion of their diet.
  • Fruits and nuts: They may occasionally consume fruits like berries or nuts like acorns.
  • Seeds: Sometimes, they enjoy feasting on seeds from various trees.
  • Suet: In winter, they might turn to suet at bird feeders in residential areas.

As you learn more about the Hairy Woodpeckers, remember to watch for them and appreciate their contributions to maintaining the health of trees in Florida’s diverse ecosystems.

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker in Florida


The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis) is a small, black and white woodpecker you can spot in Florida. This charming bird has a distinctive red patch, known as a “cockade,” on the sides of its head — which gives it its name.

These red patches are more prominent in males, while females tend to have a fainter red marking.


In Florida, they live exclusively in mature, open, longleaf pine forests. These woodpeckers rely heavily on the trees for food, nesting, and protection. They’re considered a keystone species since their presence helps maintain their habitat’s overall health and balance.

Their nesting involves creating cavities in the living trees, which can also benefit other species that use these cavities for their homes.


As you might expect, the diet of the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker mainly consists of insects found in the bark of the longleaf pines. Some of their favorites include:

  • Beetles
  • Ants
  • Bark lice
  • Wood-boring insects

Occasionally, they also enjoy eating spiders and centipedes. The foraging technique employed by these birds involves picking and probing into the bark crevices with their pointed beaks to expose the insects hidden underneath.

Exploring the bark not only helps them find food but also helps in controlling the insect population in their habitat.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker : woodpeckers in florida


As a woodpecker enthusiast, you’ll be fascinated to learn about the Pileated Woodpecker. This remarkable bird is one of the largest woodpeckers found in Florida.

People often confuse these birds with the critically endangered Ivory-billed woodpecker.

Pileated Woodpeckers can reach up to 18 inches long, with a wingspan of up to 29 inches. They have striking black and white plumage, and the males possess a brilliant red crest on their head, which extends from their forehead to the nape of their neck.


In Florida, you’ll often find Pileated Woodpeckers in mature hardwood forests, such as oak and hickory woodlands, or in mixed pine-hardwood habitats. They prefer areas with large, dead trees, which provide the perfect environment for their nests and food sources.

So, if you’re looking to spot one in their natural habitat, keep an eye on tall, dead trees or power poles in these forested areas.


Pileated Woodpeckers primarily feed on insects, particularly carpenter ants and wood-boring beetles. They’re known for their unique foraging behavior—using their powerful bills to chisel large, rectangular holes into trees to access their prey. Don’t be surprised if you see piles of wood chips around the trees where they work!

Apart from insects, these woodpeckers also enjoy fruits and nuts. Here’s a brief list of their varied diet:

  • Carpenter ants
  • Wood-boring beetles
  • Other insects
  • Acorns
  • Berries
  • Wild fruits

Now that you’re familiar with the Pileated Woodpeckers take this knowledge and enjoy searching for them in Florida’s diverse woodlands. With their distinctive appearance and captivating behavior, they will leave a lasting impression on you!

Northern Flicker in Florida

Northern Flicker Florida Woodpecker


The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) is a beautiful woodpecker you might come across in Florida. With 12 to 14 inches in size, this bird strikes you with its brownish-gray plumage and black-scalloped patterns.

Males have a noticeable red whisker-like patch at the base of their bill, which adds to their charming appearance. You can glimpse the birds’ striking yellow or red underwings and tail feathers in flight.


Northern Flickers prefer open habitats with a mix of trees and grassy areas. You can find them in woodlands, parks, and even residential areas with trees. Being cavity nesters, they create their homes in dead or decaying trees, offering an up-close encounter if you’re lucky enough.

Please keep your eyes peeled and ears open for their loud, rolling calls and their patterned drumming on wood or metal surfaces.


The diet of a Northern Flicker is quite diverse – it might surprise you! Unlike many other woodpeckers, they primarily feed on ants and other insects found on the ground.

But that’s not all – they also consume fruits, nuts, and berries to keep their energy levels up. You might catch them hopping around on the ground searching for ants or even visiting your backyard bird feeder for a tasty treat.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker in Florida


The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) is a fascinating species of woodpecker that you can find in Florida. These birds display a striking black and white pattern on their wings, with a distinctive red patch on their heads.

Males have a red throat, while females have a white one. As their name suggests, they also have a beautiful yellow-tinted belly.


You’ll frequently spot Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers in mixed forests with abundant deciduous trees, as they prefer to nest and forage in these environments. They also favor trees with softer bark, such as birch and maple, especially during their breeding season.

Look for these woodpeckers around your local parks, wooded areas, and even suburban neighborhoods with mature trees.


Their diet mainly consists of tree sap and insects, which they access by drilling neat rows of holes into the tree bark. Here’s a breakdown of what they consume:

  • Tree sap: This forms a significant part of their diet. They love slurping sap from various trees, including oak, maple, pine, and spruce.
  • Insects: Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are also known to eat ants, beetles, and other insects, typically those trapped in the sap they collect.
  • Fruit and berries: Occasionally, they may indulge in small fruits and berries to supplement their diet.

These adaptable woodpeckers provide a delightful sight and play an essential ecological role by controlling insect populations and creating sap wells that benefit other bird species. So, the next time you’re in Florida, watch for the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker!

Red-headed Woodpecker

Florida Red-headed woodpecker


The Red-headed Woodpecker is a cool-looking bird that you might come across while exploring the diverse wildlife in Florida. Its striking red head, contrasting black and white body, and a prominent wingspan of about 16-19 inches make it stand out from other woodpecker species.


In Florida, Red-headed Woodpeckers reside in open woodlands, forest edges, and river corridors. They prefer areas with dead or dying trees, which provide ample nesting sites and food sources. Additionally, they can be seen in various parts of the U.S., extending to some regions in Canada.


Regarding their diet, Red-headed Woodpeckers enjoy a diverse range of food sources. Some of their favorites include:

  • Insects: Beetles, ants, grasshoppers, and caterpillars are just a few of the insects you’ll see these woodpeckers hunting for.
  • Plant materials: They also consume fruits, nuts, and seeds, which comprise a significant portion of their diet.
  • Other creatures: Occasionally, they consume bird eggs, nestlings, and small rodents.

Feel free to observe these fascinating birds the next time you explore Florida’s woodlands. Remember to respect their natural habitat and keep a safe distance while enjoying their beauty.

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker – Critically Endangered

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker - critically endangered


The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) is an impressive bird once found in the forests of Florida. It has a striking contrast of black and white plumage with a spectacular red crest topping its head.

These woodpeckers were also known for their large size – males can reach up to 20 inches long! The Ivory-billed has come on and off the extict list for years. Here’s more information from 2023 research on the Ivory-billed.


The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker was initially found throughout the southeastern United States, inhabiting mature bottomland forests with large trees.

In Florida, they were commonly seen in cypress swamps and floodplain forests. Sadly, due to habitat loss caused by logging and other activities, this species is no longer considered a regular resident in the state. 


The diet of an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker is composed mainly of insects, but they also consume fruits, nuts, and other plant materials. These woodpeckers forage using their large bills to probe deeply into tree bark and other decaying matter to find food.

They typically nest in dead trees, where they can easily access their favorite food sources.

Although Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers are rare in Florida, recent efforts have been made to conserve and manage the remaining habitats.

This species may be seen again in Florida with proper conservation and management, but it’s not likely.

Frequently Asked Questions About Woodpecker in Florida

What are the most common woodpeckers in Florida?

In Florida, you’ll frequently encounter woodpeckers such as the Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Northern Flicker. These species are common across the state in both urban and rural environments. Don’t be surprised if you spot one in your backyard!

Which Florida woodpeckers are considered rare?

Certain rare woodpecker species in Florida are the Red-headed Woodpecker and the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Look for them in unique habitats, like longleaf pine forests or sparse woodlands. The Ivory-billed woodpecker was once a rare sight, but now they are almost extinct.

Do female woodpeckers in Florida differ from males?

Yes, there are subtle differences between male and female woodpeckers. Generally, males have more vibrant coloring, particularly around their heads. For example, male Downy Woodpeckers possess a distinct red patch on their heads, while females lack this.

Are there any endangered woodpecker species in Florida?

As far as endangered woodpeckers go, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Ivory-billed are classified as endangered (and possibly extinct) in Florida. Habitat loss, particularly of longleaf pine forests, has reduced their population dramatically. Conservation efforts are underway to help preserve and restore their natural environment.

What sounds do Florida woodpeckers make?

Woodpeckers produce various sounds, from vocalizations to the drumming noise created when peaking on trees. You may hear a sharp, high-pitched call or the softer “chirring” unique to certain species. Keep your ears open for their distinctive tapping sound while searching for insects!

Are woodpecker populations different in South and Central Florida?

Woodpecker populations vary between South and Central Florida, primarily due to differences in habitat and available resources. Some species may be more prevalent in one region than the other. However, several woodpecker species are adaptable, and you’ll find them throughout the state.

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Reference Guides:

National Audubon Society Field Guide to Birds 

The Sibley Guide to Birds

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Woodpeckers in New York (With Pictures)
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