Woodpeckers in Colorado: 13 Species within the State

Woodpeckers in Colorado are an exciting and diverse group of birds. With nearly twenty species of woodpeckers found throughout the state, there is much to learn about these feathered creatures. They have captivated bird watchers’ attention for centuries, from their unique drumming sounds to their specialized beaks.

Colorado’s many habitats provide ideal homes for various woodpecker species. One may find the Hairy Woodpecker in mountain forests, while Red-shafted Flickers call lowland meadows home. The Williamson’s Sapsucker is only located near riparian areas, while the Pileated Woodpecker can often be spotted in stands of aspen or ponderosa pine trees. Each species has uniquely adapted to its environment, making them fascinating subjects for study and observation.

Different types of Woodpeckers in Colorado:

Woodpeckers are some of the most recognizable birds in Colorado, with their distinctive beaks and feathers. Different types of woodpeckers call the Centennial State home. Each species has unique characteristics that make it stand out from the others. From the brightly-colored Pileated Woodpecker to the diminutive Downy Woodpecker, these birds can be seen across much of Colorado’s landscape.

Acorn Woodpecker

Woodpeckers in Colorado

The acorn woodpecker, a unique species of bird known for its dynamic black and white feathers and its habit of storing food in trees, is native to Colorado. Found in the riparian areas of western Colorado and parts of eastern Utah, this black-and-white spotted bird can be seen year-round. As its name implies, the acorn woodpecker feeds explicitly on acorns and other nuts, seeds, and insects. This species also has a fascinating behavior: they store large amounts of food in their tree cavities for winter use.

This gregarious bird lives in small family groups or colonies, each consisting of two to five birds. They nest together by drilling holes into dead trees to form their nests, where they lay one to three eggs annually.


• Scientific Name: Melanerpesformicivorus
• Length: 5 – 9.1 inches
• Weight: 3 – 3.2 oz.
• Wingspan: 8 – 16.9 inches

Lewis’s Woodpecker

Lewis’s Woodpecker is one of the unique birds found in Colorado. This species of Woodpecker has a wide range that covers much of the western United States, but it is particularly abundant in Colorado. The Lewis’s Woodpecker can be found from elevations below sea level up to 10,000 feet, making it well adapted to various areas across the state.

This bird species has bright red underparts and white stripes on its wings, while its back is black with a striking magenta sheen. Its habitat consists mainly of open savannas, rocky hillsides, and riparian areas where dead trees provide them with plenty of food and nesting materials. They usually feed on insects such as ants, beetles, and caterpillars, but they also eat some fruit like cherries or berries when available.


• Scientific Name: Melanerpeslewis
• Length:2 – 11 inches
• Weight: 1 – 4.9 oz.
• Wingspan:3 – 20.5 inches

Red-Headed Woodpecker

Woodpeckers in Colorado

The Red-Headed Woodpecker is a unique species of Woodpecker found in Colorado. This bird is the only red-headed Woodpecker living in North America and can be seen across the state. The Red-Headed Woodpecker stands out from other birds with its bright red head, black body, white wing patches, and zebra pattern on its back.

Colorado residents may have seen this bird while out in nature or even in their backyard. The Red-Headed Woodpecker feeds mainly on insects like beetles and caterpillars but will also feed on fruits and nuts to supplement its diet when needed. It nests primarily in dead trees or logs but can use cavities created by other woodpeckers or even artificial nest boxes.


• Scientific Name: Melanerpeserythrocephalus
• Length:3 – 9.9 inches
• Weight:0 – 3.4 oz.
• Wingspan:9 – 14.6 inches

Red-Naped Sapsucker

The Red-Naped Sapsucker has a black and white plumage with a red patch on its nape or back. They are known for their ability to create sap wells on trees with their long bills, which they feed from, and which attract other birds seeking sugary sustenance.

The range of this species extends from British Columbia to Mexico. The most significant numbers are found in western North America, which is especially abundant in mountain conifer forests of higher elevations.


• Scientific Name: Sphyrapicusnuchalis
• Length:5 – 8.3 inches
• Weight:1 – 2.3 oz
• Wingspan:2 – 16.9 inches

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The red-bellied Woodpecker is a bird found in the Rocky Mountains and other parts of Colorado. With its bright red head, white belly, and black wings, it stands out among the many birds that call Colorado their home.

These birds are often seen perched high in trees, looking for insects to fill their diet. While they will take advantage of seeds in the winter months, they mainly feed on ants and beetles throughout the year. They also feed on fruits such as cherries and strawberries when they’re available during migration season. Not only do these birds benefit from the food sources Colorado has to offer, but they also play an essential role in maintaining healthy ecosystems by eating harmful pests like bark beetles.


• Scientific Name: Melanerpescarolinus
• Length:0 – 10.5 inches
• Weight:0 – 3.2 oz.
• Wingspan:0 – 16.5 inches

Downy Woodpeckers in Colorado

Downy woodpeckers are typical in Colorado, with their distinctive black-and-white feathers and loud, persistent calls. These tiny birds are often seen perched on tree trunks and branches in the Centennial State’s forests and residential areas.

They enjoy eating insects such as ants and beetle off trees in the wild. They also feed on seeds, nuts, fruits, sap from trees, and suet from bird feeders. Downy woodpeckers can be attracted to residential yards by providing high-quality bird seed mixes or suet blocks placed near trees or other structures they can use for cover while feeding.


• Scientific Name: Dryobatespubescens
• Length:5 – 6.7 inches
• Weight:7 – 1.0 oz
• Wingspan:8 – 11.8 inches

Hairy Woodpecker

Woodpeckers in Colorado

Hairy woodpeckers are a common sight in Colorado’s mountain ranges. The species is widely distributed throughout the state and can be found in evergreen and deciduous forests. These birds are 9 inches long and have distinctive black-and-white markings on their wings and tails. They also have a red patch on their heads, which is used for identification purposes.

The hairy Woodpecker is primarily an insectivore but will also feed on berries, nuts, seeds, and other small animals, such as spiders or frogs, if it cannot find enough insects. This type of Woodpecker prefers to nest in cavities excavated by different kinds of birds, like flickers or nuthatches.


• Scientific Name: Dryobatesvillosus
• Length:1 – 10.2 inches
• Weight:4 – 3.4 oz
• Wingspan:0 – 16.1 inches

Northern Flicker

Woodpeckers in Colorado

The Northern Flicker, a vibrant and widespread bird species, can be found in Colorado. This relative of the Woodpecker is a sight to behold, with its reddish-brown breast and striking black bib. The impressive wingspan reaches up to 16 inches while feeding insects and seeds.

Colorado residents who want to spot this species should know they are most commonly seen in open meadows or near woodland areas during springtime. During this period, the male flicker will perform an elaborate courtship dance, hovering in midair and beating its wings against trees to attract potential mates.


• Scientific Name: Colaptesauratus
• Length:0 – 12.2 inches
• Weight:9 – 5.6 oz
• Wingspan:5 – 20.1 inches

Williamson’s Sapsucker

Williamson’s Sapsucker is one of Colorado’s most elusive bird species and can be found only in select areas. It belongs to the family of woodpeckers and is known for its unique plumage patterns and distinctive call. The species has been listed as a Near Threatened species since 2006 due to habitat loss caused by human activity.

Williamson’s Sapsuckers are mainly found in dense forests and coniferous tree stands throughout Colorado, with some sightings reported high up in the Rocky Mountains. The birds’ diet consists primarily of tree sap, insects, fruits, nuts, and other small invertebrates. Due to their limited range in the state, it can be challenging to spot them even if you know where they live.


• Scientific Name: Sphyrapicus thyroids
• Length:3 – 9.8 inches
• Weight:6 – 1.9 oz.
• Wingspan: 17 inches

Red-Breasted Sapsucker

The Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicusruber) is a species of Woodpecker that can be found in the forests of Colorado. This unique bird, characterized by its striking red head and chest, is known for its beauty and exciting behavior.

Red-breasted sapsuckers feed on sap drawn from living trees and on insects, fruit, nuts, and other small invertebrates. They build characteristic sap wells in the bark of their favorite trees and use their long tongues for drinking the sweet liquid. Additionally, they tap into tree trunks with their beaks to create an open wound that will attract insects that they eat.

In Colorado, these birds can often fly around in wooded areas, searching for food or taking shelter among conifers in the colder months.


• Scientific Name: Sphyrapicusruber
• Length:9 – 8.7 inches
• Weight:9 – 2.2 oz.
• Wingspan:6 – 16.0 inches

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker Woodpeckers in Colorado are iconic species. This small Woodpecker can be seen throughout the state and is often spotted tapping away at trees, collecting sap and insects. The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker has a unique plumage that includes a yellow belly, red head, white stripe along its wings, and black and white barring on its back.

It is one of only two woodpecker species in the United States. Both males and females have an entirely different coloration pattern, with males exhibiting red spots on their throats while females show yellow spots instead. The Sapsucker’s diet consists mainly of sap collected from trees by drilling holes. They also feed on flying insects found within or near the tree bark.


• Scientific Name: Sphyrapicusvarius
• Length:1 – 8.7 inches
• Weight:5 – 1.9 oz.
• Wingspan:4 – 15.8 inches

American Three-Toed Woodpecker

The American Three-Toed Woodpecker is an impressive bird in many parts of North America, including Colorado. This large Woodpecker is easily identified by its distinct red-crested head and white back with bold black bars. The American Three-Toed Woodpecker typically prefers old-growth conifer forests and aspen groves, where it feeds on small insects such as beetles and ants.

These birds have experienced a dramatic decline in population in recent years due to habitat loss and human disturbance. Fortunately, conservation efforts are being made to protect Colorado’s American Three-Toed Woodpecker population. Several organizations are working together to restore forest habitats for these birds and create educational programs about the importance of preserving their environment.


• Scientific Name: Picoidesdorsalis
• Length: 3 – 9.1 inches
• Weight:6 – 2.4 oz.
• Wingspan:6 – 15.3 inches

Ladder-Backed Woodpecker

The Ladder-Backed Woodpecker, native to the United States, is essential to Colorado’s wildlife scene. This tiny bird is unique and can be found in various habitats, including open woodlands and desert scrub. The ladder-backed Woodpecker stands out among Colorado’s wildlife with its distinctive black-and-white patterning.

The ladder-backed Woodpecker is known for its intelligence and ability to adapt to different environments quickly. Its diet consists mainly of insects like beetles, ants, and grasshoppers, but it is also known to eat fruits, nuts, and seeds and scavenge for food. The ladder-backed Woodpecker has a colorful call that carries through the woods, making it easy to find in Colorado’s forests.


• Scientific Name: Dryobatesscalaris
• Length: 3 – 7.1 inches
• Weight:7 – 1.7 oz.
• Wingspan:0 inches

Final Thoughts

Woodpeckers in Colorado are a diverse and integral part of our state’s wildlife. From the Black-backed Woodpecker to the Pileated Woodpecker, these species play an essential role in our ecosystems and provide us with beauty and entertainment. As humans, we must manage our resources carefully and take steps to protect woodpeckers from potential threats like habitat loss and climate change.

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