15 Wonderful Species in Minnesota Woodpeckers

The term “Minnesota Woodpeckers” doesn’t refer to a specific bird species. Woodpeckers are a diverse group of birds found in Minnesota and many other regions. They’re known for their distinctive characteristics, which include a strong beak for pecking and drumming on trees, and a zygodactyl foot arrangement for clinging to bark. There are several woodpecker species in Minnesota, such as the Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, and Northern Flicker, to name a few.

Their smallest species, the Downy Woodpecker, weighs around 20-30 grams, while the largest, the Pileated Woodpecker, can weigh up to 300-350 grams. Woodpeckers can live for several years, with some species reaching a maximum age of around 10-12 years. Woodpeckers are not known for long-distance migratory flights or high-altitude soaring like some other bird species.

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

The Downy Woodpecker is one of Minnesota’s most frequent woodpeckers. It’s a little bird with a striking black-and-white plumage and a short, stubby beak.

The Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) is a species native to North America, and found in various countries across the continent. These woodpeckers typically lay a clutch of 4-5 eggs and incubate them for approximately 12 days. They are mostly non-migratory birds and are not considered dangerous to humans. These woodpeckers tend to fly at low to medium altitudes and can tolerate various weather conditions. They are, indeed, birds, and the Downy Woodpecker is a single species known for its distinctive black and white plumage

Diet: Downy woodpeckers feed on insects, insect larvae, and tree sap.

Habitat: They are often found in woodlands, parks, and suburban areas with a mix of trees.

Nesting: Downy woodpeckers typically nest in tree cavities, often using abandoned nests of other birds.

Downy Woodpecker

AspectInformation
Species NameDowny Woodpecker
Scientific NamePicoides pubescens
Body SizeSmall
Body Weight20-33 grams
Maximum AgeUp to 11 years
Maximum Long Time FlightNot a long-distance migrator; primarily short flights within its habitat.

Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)

The Hairy Woodpecker looks similar to the Downy Woodpecker but is somewhat bigger and more commonly seen in woody regions.

The species name of this bird is the Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus). It is native to North America, and its distribution varies within this continent. These woodpeckers typically lay 3-6 eggs in a clutch, with an incubation period of approximately 11-15 days. They exhibit partial migration, with some individuals migrating seasonally. These birds are not dangerous to humans, as they are generally shy and non-aggressive.

In terms of their flight capabilities, Hairy Woodpeckers can fly to a maximum height of up to 60 feet or more, especially in the forest canopy. They prefer temperate and cold climates. Of course, being birds, they belong to the category of birds, and there is only one recognized species. They are known for their distinctive black and white plumage.

Diet: Similar to the Downy woodpecker, their diet consists of insects, insect eggs, and tree sap.

Habitat: They inhabit a range of forested areas, especially where older trees are present.

Nesting: Hairy woodpeckers nest in tree cavities or nest boxes.

Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)

AspectInformation
Species NameHairy Woodpecker
Scientific NamePicoides villosus
Body SizeApproximately 9-10 inches (23-25 cm)
Body WeightAbout 1.4-3.4 ounces (40-96 grams)
Maximum AgeUp to 15 years
Maximum Long Time FlightTypically short-distance fliers; not known for extended flights

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

Northern Flickers are distinct among woodpeckers owing to their ground-feeding habits and the yellow undersides of their wings and tail feathers.

The Northern Flicker, a woodpecker species, is found across various regions in North America. It typically lays a clutch of 5-8 eggs, with an incubation period of approximately 11-12 days. These birds are known for their migratory behavior. They are not considered dangerous to humans and can reach a maximum flight height of around 150-300 feet. Northern Flickers prefer open habitats, and they coexist with other bird species. There are two recognized types of Northern Flickers, the Yellow-shafted, and Red-shafted, each exhibiting a varied coloration, including brown, black, and red markings.

Diet: Ground-feeding habits, mainly ants, beetles, and insects.

Habitat: Open areas with nearby trees, including grasslands, open woodlands, and suburban locations.

Nesting: In tree cavities or nest boxes, both parents participate in incubation and chick rearing.

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

AspectInformation
Species NameNorthern Flicker
Scientific NameColaptes auratus
Body SizeApproximately 12-14 inches (30-36 cm)
Body Weight3.9-5.6 ounces (110-160 grams)
Maximum AgeUp to 9-12 years in the wild
Maximum Long Time FlightTypically short to medium-distance flights, not known for long migrations

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

The Pileated Woodpecker is Minnesota’s biggest woodpecker, distinguished by its stunning black and white plumage and unique red crest.

The Pileated Woodpecker, scientifically known as Dryocopus pileatus, is a species native to North America. It typically lays 3-5 eggs and incubates them for approximately 15-16 days. Unlike some bird species, it does not migrate but rather stays within its territory. Although not considered dangerous to humans, it can become defensive in protecting its territory. With a maximum flight height of over 100 feet, this bird prefers mature forests, especially those with deciduous or mixed trees. The Pileated Woodpecker is a bird characterized by its striking black plumage adorned with white stripes and a vivid red crest, making it a single, unique species with distinctive coloration.

Diet: Pileated woodpeckers eat a variety of insects and fruits.

Habitat: They inhabit mature forests with large trees.

Nesting: Pileated woodpeckers excavate large, distinctive rectangular-shaped cavities in dead trees for nesting.

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

AspectInformationSpecies NamePileated WoodpeckerScientific NameDryocopus pileatusBody SizeApproximately 40-49 cmBody WeightAround 250-350 gramsMaximum AgeUp to 12-15 yearsMaximum Long Time FlightTypically short flights; not known for long-distance flight

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is named for the habit of boring holes in trees to get sap. Males have a popular red shoulder patch.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) typically lays 4-7 eggs with an incubation period of around 12-13 days. Its diet consists of tree sap, insects, and fruits, and it inhabits deciduous and coniferous forests and woodlands. These birds migrate to the southern United States during the winter and are generally not considered dangerous to humans, although they may defend their territory. They can reach a maximum flight height of approximately 1,000 meters and can tolerate various weather conditions depending on the season. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is indeed a bird species, with predominantly black, white, and red plumage, and there is only one recognized species of this kind.

Diet: They primarily feed on tree sap and insects attracted to the sap wells they create.

Habitat: Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are often found in deciduous and mixed woodlands.

Nesting: They excavate nesting cavities in trees, which may also be used by other species.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

AspectInformation
Species NameYellow-bellied Sapsucker
Scientific NameSphyrapicus varius
Body SizeApproximately 7-8 inches (18-20 cm)
Body WeightAbout 1.5-2 ounces (42-57 grams)
Maximum AgeAround 5-7 years in the wild
Maximum Long Time FlightTypically short flights between feeding sites, not known for long migratory flights

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

 The Red-bellied Woodpecker, despite its name, has a slight red hue on its belly. This species is found in the southern sections of Minnesota.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) is a medium-sized woodpecker known for typically laying 4-5 eggs with an incubation period of approximately 12-14 days. These birds primarily feed on insects, fruits, and seeds and are commonly found in woodlands, forests, and suburban areas. They are mostly non-migratory, not posing any danger to humans, and tend to fly at low to medium altitudes. Red-bellied Woodpeckers are adaptable to various weather conditions and, as birds, come in various species with diverse coloration, including their distinctive red crown and pale belly.

Diet: Their diet includes insects, seeds, fruits, and nuts.

Habitat: They are often found in woodlands and forested areas with mature trees and near water sources

Nesting: Red-bellied woodpeckers excavate cavities in dead or decaying trees for nesting.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

AspectInformation
Species NameRed-bellied Woodpecker
Scientific NameMelanerpes carolinus
Body SizeApproximately 9-10 inches (23-25 cm)
Body WeightApproximately 2-3 ounces (56-85 grams)
Maximum AgeUp to 12-15 years in the wild
Maximum Long Time FlightTypically, short flights between perches and trees

American Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis)

This woodpecker is distinguished by having just three toes on each foot, rather than the typical four. It is designed to drill into conifers.

The American Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis) is a non-migratory bird species typically found in coniferous and mixed forests in northern regions with cold winters. These woodpeckers lay a variable number of eggs, typically ranging from 3 to 5, and their incubation period lasts approximately 12 to 14 days. Their primary diet consists of insects, especially beetles, and their larvae. They pose no danger to humans, as they are usually shy and tend to avoid human presence. American Three-toed Woodpeckers can reach a maximum flight height of up to 50 feet (15 meters) and exhibit distinctive black, white, and yellow plumage. Overall, this species is a fascinating example of a woodpecker that has adapted to its specific habitat and environmental conditions, showing resilience in harsh northern climates while remaining a welcome sight for bird enthusiasts.

Diet: They feed on insects found under bark, especially in dead trees.

Habitat: These woodpeckers prefer coniferous forests.

Nesting: They nest in tree cavities in coniferous trees.

American Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis)

AspectInformation
Species NameAmerican Three-toed Woodpecker
Scientific NamePicoides dorsalis
Body SizeApproximately 8-9 inches (20-23 cm)
Body WeightAbout 1.5-2.3 ounces (42-66 grams)
Maximum AgeAround 7-9 years
Maximum Long Time FlightTypically short distances between foraging and nesting sites.

Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus)

The Black-backed Woodpecker, another species suited to coniferous woods, has a distinctive black back and white underparts.

The Black-backed Woodpecker, a non-migratory bird species, typically lays 3-5 eggs with an incubation period of 11-14 days. These woodpeckers, found in coniferous and mixed forests, prefer hunting wood-boring larvae and some berries as their primary diet. They are not dangerous to humans but can display territorial behavior during the breeding season. With a maximum flight height of 15-30 meters, they are well-adapted to cold weather in northern regions and come in several subspecies and variations, featuring black-backed bodies with white undersides and yellow caps for males.

Diet: Their diet mainly consists of wood-boring beetle larvae and insects.

Habitat: They are often found in coniferous forests, especially those affected by wildfires.

Nesting: Black-backed woodpeckers nest in cavities in dead coniferous trees.

Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus)

AspectInformation
Species NameBlack-backed Woodpecker
Scientific NamePicoides arcticus
Body SizeApproximately 23-27 cm (9-11 inches) in length
Body WeightAbout 56-85 grams (2-3 ounces)
Maximum AgeTypically 7-8 years in the wild
Maximum Long Time FlightNot applicable, woodpeckers are not known for long-distance flights

American Woodcock (Scolopax minor)

Although not a true woodpecker, the American Woodcock is frequently associated with woodlands and forests, and it is recognized for its unusual mating display.

The American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) is a non-migratory bird found in coniferous and mixed forests, often in burned or disturbed areas. It typically lays 3-5 eggs with an incubation period of around 11-14 days. The woodcock’s diet consists of insects, particularly wood-boring larvae and some berries, and it is not considered dangerous to humans, although it can exhibit territorial behavior during the breeding season. This bird is known to tolerate cold weather and is commonly found in northern regions. It can fly to a maximum height of 15-30 meters and is characterized by its black-backed with white undersides, with males sporting distinctive yellow caps. The American Woodcock exists in several subspecies and variations, making it a diverse and fascinating species of bird.

Diet: American Woodcocks typically eat earthworms and invertebrates, probing the soil with their long bills to find these food items..

Habitat: They are commonly found in wet woodlands and forests with dense undergrowth, often in areas with moist or boggy soils.

Nesting: In grassy or shrubby regions, American Woodcocks nest straight on the ground. They are well-known for their unique and intricate courting show, which is an intriguing aspect of their breeding behavior.

American Woodcock (Scolopax minor)

AspectInformation
Species NameAmerican Woodcock
Scientific NameScolopax minor
Body SizeSmall to Medium
Body Weight5.3 – 8.8 ounces
Maximum AgeUp to 5 years
Maximum Long FlightNon-migratory

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)

The Great observed Woodpecker, a rare visitor from Europe, has been observed in Minnesota on occasion. It has striking black and white plumage.

The Great Spotted Woodpecker, a single species known for its striking black and white plumage, typically lays a clutch of 4-7 eggs and incubates them for approximately 11-14 days. While these woodpeckers are generally not dangerous to humans, they tend to be shy and prefer woodlands and forests as their habitat, rarely venturing far above the tree canopy during flight. This bird species coexists with other avian counterparts and is distinguished by its unique appearance and ecological niche.

Diet: Excellent Discovered Woodpeckers eat mostly insects, such as ants, beetles, and their larvae. They also eat seeds and nuts.

Habitat: These woodpeckers are native to Europe and are typically found in wooded habitats, including deciduous and coniferous forests.

Nesting: Excellent Discovered Woodpeckers build their nests in tree cavities, especially in older trees. Both parents are actively involved in the incubation of the eggs and in the care of the young.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)

AspectInformation
Species NameGreat Spotted Woodpecker
Scientific NameDendrocopos major
Body SizeApproximately 23 cm (9 inches) in length
Body WeightTypically 70-90 grams (2.5-3.2 ounces)
Maximum AgeAround 7-8 years in the wild
Maximum Long Time FlightWhile woodpeckers can fly for extended periods, they are not known for extremely long flights. They primarily fly between foraging spots and their nesting sites, so long flights are relatively infrequent.

Lewis’s Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis)

 Lewis’s Woodpecker is a western species that is infrequently observed in Minnesota. It is distinguished by its dark plumage and iridescent greenish-black sheen.

Lewis’s Woodpecker, formally known as Lewis’s Melanerpes, is a striking bird species with iridescent dark greenish-black plumage, a distinctive pink belly, and a white throat patch. They typically lay between 4 to 10 eggs and incubate them for approximately 12 to 15 days. Not considered dangerous to humans, Lewis’s Woodpeckers are known to fly at heights generally below 500 feet, and they prefer open woodlands, savannas, and grasslands for their habitat. This bird species is a solitary one, making it the sole representative under the category of “Birds” in the table, and it is known for its unique coloration and choice of habitat.

Diet: Lewis’s Woodpeckers have a diverse diet that includes insects, acorns, fruits, and flying insects.

Habitat: They enjoy open forests, sometimes with burnt or dead trees that provide nesting places and perches..

Nesting: Lewis’s Woodpeckers often build their nests in tree cavities, particularly in burnt trees. Both parents are actively involved in the incubation of the eggs and in the care of the young.

Lewis's Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis)

AspectInformation
Species NameLewis’s Woodpecker
Scientific NameMelanerpes lewis
Body SizeApproximately 10-11 inches (25-28 cm)
Body Weight3.0 to 4.2 ounces (85-120 grams)
Maximum AgeTypically up to 8-10 years in the wild
Maximum Long FlightKnown to make long flights during migration, exact duration varies

Yellow-shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

 A subspecies of the Northern Flicker, the Yellow-shafted Flicker is recognized by its yellow underwings and tail feathers.

The species “Yellow-shafted Flicker” (Colaptes auratus) typically lays a variable number of eggs, ranging from 5 to 8, with an incubation period of approximately 11 to 16 days. These birds are not dangerous to humans and can fly up to a maximum height of 100 meters (328 feet). They can be found in various weather conditions and belong to the category of birds. Yellow-shafted Flickers come in several subspecies, and their coloration includes shades of brown, beige, and vibrant yellow.

Diet: Similar to the Northern Flickers, they feed on insects and fruits.

Habitat: They inhabit open woodlands, grasslands, and urban areas.

Nesting: Yellow-shafted flickers often nest in tree cavities, fence posts, or buildings.

Yellow-shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

AspectInformation
Species NameYellow-shafted Flicker
Scientific Name(Scientific name here)
Body Size(Body size in inches or cm)
Body Weight(Body weight in grams or pounds)
Maximum age(Maximum age in years)
Maximum long time flight(Maximum duration of continuous flight in hours)

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

 The Red-headed Woodpecker, as its name implies, is easily recognized in open forests due to its vivid red head.

The Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) is a striking bird with predominantly black and white plumage and a distinct red head. This species typically lays a variable number of eggs, typically ranging from 4 to 7, which are incubated for approximately 12 to 14 days. Their diet consists of insects, fruits, nuts, and seeds, and they can be found in a variety of habitats, including deciduous forests, open woodlands, and orchards. Red-headed Woodpeckers are known for their partial migration, depending on food availability. They are not considered dangerous to humans but can be territorial, especially during the breeding season. These birds typically fly at treetop levels and are adaptable to various weather conditions. Red-headed Woodpeckers are indeed birds, with a single species and their distinctive black, white, and red plumage.

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Diet: They eat insects, seeds, nuts, and fruits.

Habitat: Red-headed woodpeckers are found in open woodlands, groves, and orchards.

Nesting: They often nest in cavities in dead trees.

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

AspectInformation
Species NameRed-headed Woodpecker
Scientific NameMelanerpes erythrocephalus
Body SizeApproximately 7-9 inches (18-23 cm)
Body WeightApproximately 2.1-3.2 ounces (60-90 grams)
Maximum AgeUp to 12 years in the wild
Maximum Long Time FlightTypically short flights between foraging locations

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)

 The Eastern Phoebe while not classified as a woodpecker, frequently appears near forests and feeds upon insects, making it a vital component of the ecology.

The Eastern Phoebe, scientifically known as Sayornis phoebe, typically lays a clutch of 3 to 5 eggs with an incubation period of approximately 16-18 days. They are not considered dangerous to humans and are generally harmless. These birds have a maximum flight height of typically below 100 feet (30 meters) and can be found in various weather conditions. Eastern Phoebes are indeed birds, belonging to a single species, and are characterized by their mostly brownish-gray and white plumage.

Diet: Eastern Phoebes primarily feed on insects near water sources, such as flies, bees, and wasps.

Habitat: They are commonly found in woodlands, open areas, and structures near water sources, including streams, ponds, and other bodies of water.

Nesting: Eastern Phoebes build cup-shaped nests on structures, and both parents are actively involved in incubating the eggs and caring for the chicks.

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)

AspectInformation
Species NameEastern Phoebe
Scientific NameSayornis phoebe
Body SizeSmall
Body WeightApproximately 12-17 grams
Maximum AgeUp to 10 years
Maximum Long Time FlightUsually short flights with brief periods of sustained flight

Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber)

The Red-breasted Sapsucker, which has a striking red throat and head patch and is infrequently seen in Minnesota, is another sapsucker species.

The Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber) is a species of bird known for typically laying 3-7 eggs with an incubation period of approximately 12-13 days. These birds are not dangerous to humans and can be found in temperate forests. They can reach maximum flight heights of around 60-100 feet (18-30 meters). Red-breasted Sapsuckers are a single species characterized by their primarily black, white, and red coloration, making them an interesting addition to the avian world.

Diet: Red-breasted Sapsuckers primarily feed on tree sap, insects attracted to sap, fruits, and berries.

Habitat: They are commonly found in coniferous and mixed woodlands, often among spruce and fir trees.

Nesting: Red-breasted Sapsuckers nest in tree cavities, especially in conifer trees. Both parents are actively involved in incubating the eggs and caring for the young.

Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber)

AspectInformation
Species NameRed-breasted Sapsucker
Scientific NameSphyrapicus ruber
Body SizeSmall to Medium
Body WeightApproximately 40-60 grams
Maximum AgeAbout 8-10 years
Maximum Long Time FlightTypically short-distance, no specific data available

FAQ

What is the Downy Woodpecker’s native range and nesting behavior?

The Downy Woodpecker is native to North America and typically lays 4-5 eggs in tree cavities, often reusing abandoned nests.

How does the Hairy Woodpecker differ from the Downy Woodpecker in size and migration behavior?

The Hairy Woodpecker is slightly larger than the Downy and exhibits partial migration, with some individuals migrating seasonally.

What distinguishes the Northern Flicker from other woodpeckers, and what is their habitat preference?

Northern Flickers are distinct with their ground-feeding habits and yellow undersides of their wings and tail feathers, and they prefer open habitats with nearby trees.

What is unique about the Pileated Woodpecker, and what type of forests do they inhabit?

The Pileated Woodpecker is Minnesota’s largest woodpecker, known for its striking black and white plumage and red crest, and they prefer mature forests, especially those with deciduous or mixed trees.

What is the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker known for, and what is its diet and migration pattern?

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is named for boring holes in trees to obtain sap, and it migrates to the southern United States during winter, primarily feeding on tree sap, insects, and fruits.

Tell us about the Red-bellied Woodpecker’s nesting habits and habitat preferences.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers nest in tree cavities in dead or decaying trees and are often found in woodlands and forested areas with mature trees and near water sources.

How is the American Three-toed Woodpecker adapted to its specific habitat, and what do they eat?

The American Three-toed Woodpecker is adapted to coniferous forests and primarily feeds on insects found under bark, especially in dead trees.

What is unique about the Black-backed Woodpecker’s habitat and diet?

Black-backed Woodpeckers are often found in coniferous forests, especially those affected by wildfires, and their diet consists mainly of wood-boring beetle larvae and insects.

What distinguishes the American Woodcock, and where is it typically found?

The American Woodcock, while not a woodpecker, is associated with woodlands and forests and is known for its unique mating display, often found in wet woodlands and forests.

What is the unique characteristic of the Great Spotted Woodpecker, and what are its preferred habitats?

  • The Great Spotted Woodpecker, despite not being a woodpecker native to North America, is recognized for its striking black and white plumage and is typically found in wooded habitats, including deciduous and coniferous forests.