Iowa Woodpeckers: 7 Artisans of the Bird World

Iowa Woodpeckers are some of the most beautiful birds in the state. These birds are found throughout Iowa, from rural areas to urban settings. They can often be seen high up on trees or buildings, searching for insects and other food sources.

Iowa is home to various woodpeckers, from the smallest downy to the largest pileated. Woodpeckers have a unique biology that allows them to peck into trees with their specially adapted beaks and long tongues. They are beneficial to our environment.

7 Species of Iowa Woodpeckers:

Woodpeckers are a common species throughout Iowa. With seven different woodpecker species in the state, there is plenty of opportunity to watch and admire these birds up close.

Pileated Woodpecker:

Iowa Woodpeckers

The Pileated Woodpecker is a large, black woodpecker found throughout North America. While the species can be found across most of the United States, Iowa is home to many spectacular birds. The Pileated Woodpecker is an impressive sight in its natural habitat, and Iowans have been lucky enough to enjoy these majestic creatures for thousands of years.

In recent decades, however, there have been changes in Iowa’s landscape impacting the population of Pileated Woodpeckers. Trees such as oaks and hickories are being replaced by corn and soybean fields, which are not suitable habitats for this type of bird.


• Scientific Name: DryocopusPileatus
• Length:16–19 inches
• Weight:9–12 ounces
• Wingspan: 26–29.5 inches

Yellow-Shafted Northern Flicker:

Iowa Woodpeckers

The Yellow-Shafted Northern Flicker Woodpecker is a migratory bird species found in most of the United States, including Iowa. This beautiful bird is known for its distinct yellow feathers and loud call. The Yellow-Shafted Northern Flicker Woodpecker prefers to inhabit open woodlands and urban areas with plenty of trees. It can often be spotted on tree branches or flying from one tree to another, looking for food.

In Iowa, the Yellow-Shafted Northern Flicker Woodpecker can typically be seen during spring and summer when it visits from its wintering grounds in Central America. Its diet consists mainly of insects, but it also enjoys eating fruits, nuts, and seeds from bird feeders.


• Scientific Name:ColaptesAuratus
• Length:11–12 inches
• Weight:4–6 ounces
• Wingspan:16.5–20 inches

Downy Picoides:

Iowa Woodpeckers

The Downy Picoides woodpecker is a small bird species that can be found in parts of Iowa. This black and white striped bird, measuring only 7 inches long, is often seen perched on trees or darting from branch to branch. With its sharp beak, the Downy Picoides woodpecker feeds on insects found in decaying tree trunks, components, and other food sources such as grasses and fruits. The Downy Picoides woodpecker is commonly spotted throughout the forests of central and western Iowa, although it may occasionally venture into more urban areas.

These birds migrate south to warmer climates in the winter to feed easier. During the summer, they may build their nests in cavities created by other woodpeckers or even humans in some cases.


• Scientific Name:PicoidesPubescens
• Length:5.5–7 inches
• Weight:0.7–1 ounce
• Wingspan:10–12 inches

Red-Bellied Melanerpes:

Iowa Woodpeckers

For birding enthusiasts looking for a new avian adventure, the red-bellied Melanerpes woodpecker is one species found in Iowa. This colourful bird is known for its distinctive reddish head feathers and black and white barred back. It has also been seen in urban and rural settings, making it an easy species to observe.

The red-bellied Melanerpes woodpecker can be spotted in many areas of Iowa throughout the year, but they are most common during the spring and summer months. They typically feed on beetle larvae, other insects, and nuts such as acorns and hickory nuts. These birds love to live near dead trees or snags because these provide plenty of food sources like carpenter ants.


• Scientific Name:MelanerpesCarolinus
• Length:8.5–9 inches
• Weight: 2–3 ounces
• Wingspan:13–16.5 inches

Hairy Woodpecker:

Iowa Woodpeckers

The Hairy Woodpecker is a unique and exciting bird that can be found in the state of Iowa. With its large size and distinctive black and white markings, the Hairy Woodpecker is easy to spot. This woodpecker species are found throughout Iowa’s forests, orchards, and urban areas.

The Hairy Woodpecker uses its strong beak to peck at tree bark to make holes which it then uses for nesting sites. It feeds on insects that live beneath tree bark of trees and nuts and seeds. The Hairy Woodpecker migrates seasonally, with most birds leaving Iowa during winter. They typically return from late February through April when mating season begins.


• Scientific Name:LeuconotopicusVillosus
• Length: 7–10 inches
• Weight:1–3 ounces
• Wingspan: 13–16 inches

Red-Headed Melanerpes:

Iowa Woodpeckers

The Red-Headed Melanerpes Woodpecker is an iconic bird species located in the state of Iowa. This unique and brightly coloured bird is a sight to behold, with its distinct red head and black body. The bird can be found throughout Iowa’s woodlands, parks, and other natural habitats, making it a popular species for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.

This mid-sized woodpecker is visually appealing and is important in keeping insect populations in check. The birds primarily search for food on trees by pecking into bark or examining dead wood while they look for insects to feed on. In addition to being a source of food for predators like hawks or falcons, their presence also helps maintain healthy forests by removing dead branches that could otherwise spread disease through the area.


• Scientific Name: MelanerpesErythrocephalus
• Length:7.5–9 inches
• Weight:2–3 ounces
• Wingspan:13–16.5 inches

Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers:

Iowa Woodpeckers

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is one of the more uncommon woodpeckers found in Iowa. This medium-sized bird is well known for drilling holes in trees and feeding on sap, though it will also eat insects and fruits when available. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker prefers mature forests with large, old trees as its habitat but can sometimes be seen along forest edges or in rural areas with scattered trees.

The male of the species has a distinctive red head and throat with white bars across its back and wings. Its bright yellow belly can quickly identify it spotted with black stripes. They are known to drum on trees like other woodpeckers do when looking for food or establishing territory; this sound can often echo through the woods during springtime.


• Scientific Name:SphyrapicusVarius
• Length:7–9 inches
• Weight: 1.5–2 ounces
• Wingspan:13–16 inches

Final Thoughts:

The remarkable Iowa Woodpeckers is a magnificent creature integral to Iowa’s diverse ecosystems. As one of Iowa’s native and beloved birds, protecting and conserving their habitat is crucial to ensure that future generations can appreciate this unique species. As individuals, we can take action by planting native trees and plants, removing invasive species, and helping organizations focused on conservation.

Are woodpeckers protected in Iowa?

Yes, woodpeckers are protected in Iowa. The state is home to various species, including the Red-headed Woodpecker and the Hairy Woodpecker. All of these species are protected under the Iowa Code Chapter 481A, which states that it is illegal to hunt, kill or possess any native bird species without a permit from the Department of Natural Resources.