When it comes to hunting food, woodpeckers have an advantage that no other bird has. This group’s skull is strong and reinforced, protecting their brain from being drilled into trees by its specialized beak. They do this in order to find food and build nests, as well as communicate with other members of their species. They also have a tongue that’s lengthy, barbed, and typically sticky, and it’s utilized to capture and suck in insects. We’ll concentrate on the species of woodpeckers in New Hampshire in this article because they’re found all over the country.
8 SPECIES OF WOODPECKERS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
The Pileated Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Black-backed Woodpecker, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker are the eight different species of woodpeckers found in New Hampshire. The Red-headed Woodpecker and the Red-bellied Woodpecker, both of which have a range that extends beyond New Hampshire, are less frequent in the state.
1. DOWNY WOODPECKER
Scientific name: Picoides pubescens
Height: 5.5-7.1 inches
Weight: 0.74-0.99 ounces
In New Hampshire, the Downy Woodpecker is the tiniest of the woodpeckers. It has evolved to live with human presence and can be found across the state. Its name comes from the fond nickname “Downy,” which it has earned due to its delicate texture on its back.
With strong bars of light and dark on their wings, a wide white stripe down their back, and a distinctive black and white striping pattern, they are easily recognized. Males have a bright red dot at the nape of the neck, whereas females have slightly different patterns.
It usually clings to trees’ trunks and limbs for most of its life. They have two toes facing front and two facing back, like other woodpeckers, and they have specialized feet called zygodactyl feet. While hunting for insects, these feet help them stick to the bark of a tree.
Because they’re able to crawl all the way out to the tips of smaller branches that other woodpeckers are too heavy to reach, their smaller size comes in handy when foraging for various nuts and berries.
2. HAIRY WOODPECKER
Scientific name: Picoides villosus
Height: 9-9.5 inches
Weight: 0.74-0.99 ounces
The Hairy Woodpecker and the Downy both have black and white stripes with a red dot on the nape, but they are two separate species! At first impression, they look a lot alike. While they both live in similar regions throughout New Hampshire, the two species have a few key differences.
Being a rare feat for first bird watchers, the Hairy Woodpecker has all-white tail feathers and a bigger beak. It feeds mostly on insects and supplementing plant matter in its diet, and it is most often found in older woods with greater tree growth.
Other family members coexist with this woodpecker, and it exploits them to its advantage. In the pursuit of easy food, they’ve been known to mimic Pileated Woodpeckers’ loud drumming. The Hairy Woodpecker will check the large holes left behind after the Pileated Woodpecker has departed and pick any insects that may have been missed.
In addition, they’ll hunt for more accessible food along the paths of the Sapsuckers. They’ve been observed pecking at the sap left behind by the Sapsucker and have been known for boring holes in sugar cane in search of sweet juice, therefore it’s thought that they have a sweet tooth.
3. NORTHERN FLICKER
Scientific name: Colaptes auratus
Height: 7-15 inches
Weight: 4.2 ounces
While mostly only found in Northern New Hampshire during the breeding season, the Northern Flicker can be found across New Hampshire. These birds go south for the winter in the summer.
They’re most often seen looking for ants on lawns. The underwings of these birds flash yellow while flying. It is a common sight at bird feeders and local favorites, and it primarily lives in many built-up areas.
Ants and grubs are the main sources of food for this woodpecker, but seeds and berries are sometimes eaten when they’re available. Northern Flickers are the most likely culprits if you notice a bird walking vertically up a tree trunk.
It possesses stiff, pointed tail feathers that protrude at just the correct angle to function as a balancing prop, in addition to its zygodactyl feet that permit it to grip. Woodpeckers migrate in only three other species.
4. PILEATED WOODPECKER
Scientific name: Dryocopus pileatus
Height: 16-19 inches
Weight: 8.8-14 ounces
The Pileated Woodpecker produces a forceful, prehistoric-sounding scream that may be heard miles away and is loud and raucous. Despite its propensity to fly swiftly and make a lot of noise, this bird is retiring and difficult to detect. While they can be found across New Hampshire, they are relatively uncommon to observe.
You’ll know if you have one of these woodpeckers in your yard if it’s there. While searching for its favorite food, carpenter ants, this bird creates large, rectangular holes in the trees.
In New Hampshire and across North America, Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest of the woodpeckers. Several birds, not just those of its species, benefit from the holes they create. Other birds like the Hairy Woodpecker, which slows down, speeds up, and then slows down again, are attracted to its distinctive drumming sound.
This bird prefers to hammer into dead and rotting logs in search of termites and ants, unlike the common misconception that it drills live trees. As people have encroached on their territory, this species has gradually moved in closer to parks and woodlots along the outskirts of big cities.
Their populations are increasing, and there are more sightings each year, despite their scarcity in New Hampshire.
5. YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER
Scientific name: Sphyrapicus varius
Weight: 1.6 ounces
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker used to be common in the area, but their numbers have decreased due to human deforestation and pesticide use. In the spring and summer, look for yellow-bellied sapsuckers in the state of New Hampshire, where they have a breeding range.
The cat-like cackles and staccato drumming that this woodpecker performs on tree trunks make it a fairly noisy and clamorous creature.
The Sapsucker will drill tiny punctures in the tree bark, usually in evenly spaced rows, and allow sap to drain out. The name implies that it will drill such punctures. It will peck at the sweet sap in these sap wells periodically, attracting a variety of insect species, including ants.
6. RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER
Scientific name: Melanerpes carolinus
Height: 9-10.5 inches
Weight: 2.2 ounces
After the deforestation of forests in the 1860s, the Red-bellied Woodpecker has diminished in numbers throughout the northeast. According to allaboutbirds.org, they’re most often seen in New Hampshire, although they don’t have a official range in the state. While it does have a reddish blush on its belly during the breeding season, their name is a little misnomer.
It is still gray throughout the remainder of the year. On this bird’s head and nape, the real most obvious red patch year-round is. They communicate through a wide range of noises, including trills, chuckles, and constant tree drumming.
This bird’s tongue is likewise covered in sticky spit, which is adapted to slipping into holes bored in tree bark in search of food, as are other woodpeckers’ tongues. Since it would benefit coupled pairs, males have a longer and broader-tipped tongue than females.
Since each individual has access to a little different region inside their territory, they may forage in greater quantities. As a result, the chicks grow stronger and exhibit this dimorphism.
7. RED-HEADED WOODPECKER
Scientific name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus
Height: 7.5-9.8 inches
Weight: 2-3.4 ounces
Much like the Red-bellied Woodpecker, the Red-headed Woodpecker isn’t technically a resident in New Hampshire. However, they are often spotted there since they are found in neighboring states during the breeding season.
Adults have crimson heads that develop as they get older. The immature juveniles have brown heads and are much duller and disguised until their plumage arrives in.
For capturing food, this woodpecker takes a slightly different approach. It can capture insects in mid-flight and store food in cracks and crevices, while still drilling for insects. These sections have even been known to be wedged with live grasshoppers, which are kept stored away for later consumption and covered in bark or leaves on occasion. They’re spotted boldly and quickly, and they’re quite active.
Red-headed Woodpeckers are drawn to open pine plantations, tree rows in agricultural regions, and standing timber in beaver marshes and other wetlands. Once they arrive, they are fiercely protective of their area, even puncturing duck eggs and removing other species’ eggs from nests.
The Red-headed Woodpecker became the Cherokee Indian war emblem as a result of this deed for generations.
For centuries, the Red-headed Woodpecker was recognized as a Cherokee Indian battle emblem as a result of this deed.
8. BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER
Length: 9.1 in
Weight: 2.1-3.1 oz
Wingspan: 15.8-16.5 in
The size of Black-backed Woodpeckers matches that of Hairy Woodpeckers, making them medium-sized woodpeckers. They are built with thick, inky black plumage on their upper parts, as well as white underparts and facial markings.
A yellow crown patch is also seen on males. Black-backed Woodpeckers may be found year-round in northern New Hampshire and Maine. Despite the fact that Canada is home to the bulk of their citizens.
Burnt woodlands, which are usually between a year and eight years old, go hand in hand with these woodpeckers. The unique foraging possibilities and insects found in burned woods make them appealing. When they perch, black-backed woodpeckers peel away bark to access larvae of wood-boring beetles, blending in perfectly with charred wood.