Types of Woodpeckers in Washington

The pileated woodpecker is the largest North American woodpecker species.
The pileated woodpecker is the largest North American woodpecker species. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The state of Washington has vast areas of natural woodland which make for ideal habitat for many species, including woodpeckers. The state is home to 13 species of woodpecker from five different genera of the Picidae family. Woodpeckers get their name from the habit of pecking against tree trunks to find insects to eat.

Pied Woodpeckers

Washington is home to five species of the genus Picoides, or pied woodpeckers. It includes the state's smallest species, the downy woodpecker, which is black and white in color. Males of the species have small red patches on the back of their heads. The hairy woodpecker looks like a larger version of the downy; both are common residents of the state. The white-headed woodpecker has a fully black body and a white head, and males have a red crown. The American three-toed is black and white with a yellow crown. Like the white-headed, it is a rare resident of eastern Washington. The black-backed is also rare and is mostly black in color with a yellow crown in males.


Sapsuckers are a type of woodpecker that, instead of tapping tree trunks to find insects, actually make holes in the tree for the sap. The birds then come back to the hole later to feed on the sap and the insects attracted to the sweet substance. The state is home to four sapsucker species. Williamson's sapsucker is black and white with a yellow bellow and red throat. The yellow-bellied sapsucker is a rare visitor to the state appearing around winter time. The red-naped sapsucker is common in eastern Washington, while the red-breasted is most common in the western part of the state.

Melanerpine Woodpeckers

The state is home to two species in the Melanerpes genus of woodpeckers, both of which are most common in the east of the state. Lewis's woodpecker is a large bird with a greenish-black back, gray stomach and red face. It is common in the eastern parts of the state and less so in the west. The acorn woodpecker is mainly black with a gray mottled belly, white face and red crown. It is a rare resident in small parts of eastern Washington.

Pileated and Flicker Woodpeckers

Washington's two other woodpecker species include North America's largest, the pileated woodpecker. It is a large, slender bird with black and white plumage and a distinctive, pointed red crown. The pileated is most common in the western areas of the state and less so in the east. The northern flicker, unlike most woodpeckers, is brown, not black. It is less colorful than most species, but males do have red patches on their cheeks. It is common throughout the state.

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