In the United States, there are roughly 300 different species of woodpeckers, 22 of which are native. I discovered seven species of woodpeckers in Iowa, out of a total of 22. Some of the seven species live permanently in Iowa, while others only visit for a short time.
We’ll discuss all seven species of woodpeckers found in Iowa in this article. We’ll provide a photograph for each species, along with a little information about its size, a short description, and various interesting facts.
We’ll discuss how to entice woodpeckers to your yard at the conclusion of this article.
WOODPECKERS IN STATE
1. DOWNY WOODPECKER
Length: 5.5-6.7 in
Weight: 0.7-1.0 oz
Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in
The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest species of woodpecker in North America, and it can be found across Iowa throughout the year. Suet, peanuts, mixed seed, or black sunflower seed are very common at feeders and attract them easily. Downys, along with chickadees and titmice, are always among the first to check out my new feeder whenever I install one in my yard. They are also ubiquitous throughout the winter months and do not migrate.
They hammer trees looking for insect larvae and feed on berries and acorns in addition to visiting bird feeders on a regular basis. Drinking nectar from a hummingbird feeder is not uncommon for a Downy Woodpecker. Dead trees or dead branches on living trees are preferred habitat for downy woodpeckers.
2. HAIRY WOODPECKER
The Hairy Woodpecker, which resembles the Downy in appearance, is next. Except for the Hairy’s larger size, distinguishing them might be difficult. They’re depicted side by side in the graphic below. The left has the Downy, while the right has the Hairy. The size difference between the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers is difficult to perceive, although the latter is substantially bigger and has a longer beak.
Iowa and the majority of the United States are also home to the Hairy Woodpecker year-round. They’re often seen around bird feeders, and like their little buddy the Downy, they enjoy all of the same foods. It’s quite possible you mistake them for the same species because you’ve seen both. A little more depth on the distinctions between a Hairy and a Downy Woodpecker can be found in this piece we published.
3. RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER
Length: 9.4 in
Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz
Wingspan: 13.0-16.5 in
During the year, red-bellied woodpeckers may be found across Iowa. They are comparable in size to Hairy Woodpeckers, but much bigger than Downy Woodpeckers. They may be seen around bird feeders, particularly suet feeders.
When you scroll down to the next woodpecker in Iowa, you’ll see the difference. At first glance, you notice their red heads, but resist the urge to call them Red-headed Woodpeckers. When they are up against a tree or feeder, Red-bellied Woodpeckers have a red stomach, although it is more of a light red. To identify them, look for their black and white barred wings, as well as a crimson Mohawk down their neck.
4. RED-HEADED WOODPECKER
Length: 7.5-9.1 in
Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz
Wingspan: 16.5 in
While they are less frequent at bird feeders than the first three on this list of woodpeckers in Iowa, red-headed woodpeckers may be found across the state throughout both breeding and winter. They’re only found in the breeding range in Northwestern Iowa, so seek them out around Sioux City during the spring and summer. These birds are sometimes seen at bird feeders before dashing to a tree to hide the delectable foods in crevices or on the bark for another day.
Insects, seeds, and berries are the major foods for red-headed woodpeckers. When it comes to woodpeckers, they are also regarded to be among the most skilled flycatchers and will often store live insects in tree bark for later consumption. They are easily identified by their bright red heads, which contrast sharply with their black and white bodies. For a long time, their population has been declining, and in some areas, they have become significantly harder to come across.
5. PILEATED WOODPECKER
Length: 15.8-19.3 in
Weight: 8.8-12.3 oz
Wingspan: 26.0-29.5 in
Although Pileated Woodpeckers are year-round residents of Iowa, they are most commonly seen in far eastern Iowa near the Illinois and Wisconsin borders. In Iowa, and across North America, they are the most common kind of woodpecker. When offered suet feeders, like other woodpeckers, they readily eat, but they can be difficult to attract and keep track of. I’m still hoping to attract this one kind of woodpecker to my yard.
If you have any on your land, they will appreciate dead and dying trees, and if you set up a nest box, they may even attract a pair. They drill enormous holes in big trees in mature woods for nesting and prefer them over tiny trees. Carpenter ants are their primary source of nutrition, but they consume beetle larvae, termites, other insects, fruits, and nuts.
6. NORTHERN FLICKER
Length: 11.0-12.2 in
Weight: 3.9-5.6 oz
Wingspan: 16.5-20.1 in
The American Northern Flickers, which frequent backyards, are very colorful birds. They mostly eat ants from the ground, picking through leaves and dirt with their long tongues and snatching them, although they do visit feeders on occasion. Other invertebrates, as well as berries, sunflower seeds, and thistle, will be eaten by them in addition to the ants.
They do drum on trees frequently as a form of communication, even though they find their food on the ground. Like most other woodpeckers, they prefer to nest in ancient and rotting trees. The brown bibs, crimson on the back of their necks, and yellow on their tails distinguish Northern Flickers from other flickers. They are considerably bigger than a Hairy Woodpecker, but much smaller than a Pileated Woodpecker in terms of size.
7. YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER
Length: 7.1-8.7 in
Weight: 1.5-1.9 oz
Wingspan: 13.4-15.8 in
While yellow-bellied sapsuckers are not usually seen at bird feeders, they may appear at a suet feeder from time to time. While seeking for insects or collecting sap, they are more frequently seen on tree limbs. Sapsuckers will pound holes in birch and maple trees, then insert their bills and take as much sap as they can with their long tongues.
These woodpeckers, which are about the size of an American Robin, are only seen during migration in Iowa. The yellow and black chests, as well as the red feathers above and below their beaks, distinguish Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers from other black species.
HOW TO ATTRACT WOODPECKERS
Attracting woodpeckers to our feeders or yards is something we all enjoy. Chickadees, titmice, and cardinals are all common sights, and they provide a little excitement. They’re more difficult to detect and attract, though. Here are some ways to entice woodpeckers to your property.
- Many woodpeckers are known for visiting bird feeders, so offer them food they like. Consider adding black sunflower seed to your suet feeder. Large woodpeckers will be attracted by a suet feeder with a tail prop area.
- Woodpeckers prefer dead and decaying trees with many insect larvae for them to devour. Leave dead trees alone.
- Many woodpeckers species will use nest boxes, which should be placed up. From May to July, pileated woodpeckers utilize nesting boxes.
- Woodpeckers may occasionally enjoy fruits and berries like dogwood, serviceberry, tupelo, mountain ash, strawberry, cherry, grapes, bayberry, holly, blueberries, apples, mulberry; and brambles.
- Woodpeckers will use bird baths just like other birds, so make sure there is a water source available, either with a water mover or solar fountain to help attract them. The best solar fountains with batteries are those that keep working when the sun goes behind a cloud.