Woodpeckers in Kentucky: 9 Amazing Species

Woodpeckers in Kentucky are a unique and exciting bird species. Over 20 species of Woodpecker have been recorded in the state, with some being much more common than others. The Red-headed Woodpecker is the most well-known species, and its bright red head can identify and white body. Other common types include the Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, and Pileated Woodpecker.

These birds make their homes in wooded areas such as forests or swamps and can often be seen drumming on trees or searching for food like insects in tree bark.
Woodpeckers also play an important role in Kentucky’s ecology due to their habit of drilling holes into dead timber to create places for other animals to live.

Woodpeckers in Kentucky

Kentucky is home to various woodpecker species, some native to the area and others that migrate through the state seasonally. Certain types of woodpeckers can be found in different parts of the state due to their preferred habitats. The most common types of woodpeckers are seen in Kentucky.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker


Scientific NameDryobatespubescens
Length5.6–7 inches
Weight0.8–1.2 ounces
Wingspan10–11 inches

The Downy Woodpecker is a small bird found throughout the United States, but its presence in Kentucky is particularly robust. With its distinctive black and white markings and loud “drumming” noise, even novice bird watchers can easily identify this species. The Downy Woodpecker typically inhabits deciduous forests, preferring to live in dead or dying trees, which provide them with ideal nesting sites and food sources such as insects and larvae.

These diminutive Woodpeckers in Kentucky have many habitats, from heavily wooded areas to suburban backyards. Their diet consists primarily of insects, which they extract by hammering away at dead trees with their substantial bills; they also supplement their diets with nuts, fruits, and berries found in shrubs and hedges.

Hairy Woodpeckers in Kentucky

Hairy Woodpeckers in Kentucky


Scientific NameDryobatesvillosus
Length7–10 inches
Weight1.5–3.5 ounces
Wingspan13–17 inches

The Hairy Woodpecker is a species of Woodpecker found throughout much of North America, including the state of Kentucky. This bird has a unique appearance, with its white and black markings and long bill. The Hairy Woodpecker is essential to the Kentucky ecosystem, providing valuable services to humans and wildlife.

The Hairy Woodpecker can be seen year-round in many parts of the state. These birds are often found foraging for food on the trunks, branches, and limbs of trees. They play an essential role in controlling insect populations by eating large numbers of insects while searching for food. The holes they create when drilling into tree trunks also provide nesting sites for other cavity-dwelling animals, such as squirrels or bats.

Northern Flicker Woodpeckers in Kentucky

Northern Flicker Woodpeckers in Kentucky


Scientific NameColaptesauratus
Length11–14 inches
Weight3–6 ounces
Wingspan17–21 inches

The Northern Flicker is a species of Woodpecker native to Kentucky and much of North America. This spectacular bird is known for its unique, loud call and striking plumage. It’s easily distinguishable from other species with reddish-brown feathers on the upper body and spotted wings.

Northern Flickers typically make their nests in dead trees, but they can also be found in urban areas with plenty of open spaces and food sources. They’ll come to yard feeders for seeds or suet and visit open fields looking for insects such as ants or beetles. You may hear them drumming on trees with their bills to attract mates in the late spring through early summer months.

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Red-Headed Woodpecker

Red-Headed Woodpeckers in Kentucky


Scientific NameMelanerpeserythrocephalus
Length7.5–10 inches
Weight2–3.5 ounces
Wingspan16–17 inches

The red-headed Woodpecker is a unique bird that can be found in the forests of Kentucky. This species has a fantastic redhead, grey body, and white belly. It’s also easily distinguished by its loud “PIE-ROW” call, which can be heard echoing through the trees.

Red-headed woodpeckers in Kentucky are most commonly seen during the warmer months when they actively search for food to feed their young. They feed mainly on insects such as beetles and caterpillars and occasionally eat fruits or nuts from trees. During the colder months, they migrate south or seek shelter in hollowed-out tree cavities to avoid harsher weather conditions.

Red-headed woodpeckers in Kentucky are an essential part of the ecosystem due to their predation habits and role in helping disperse seeds from their consumed fruits.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker


Scientific NameMelanerpescarolinus
Length9–10.5 inches
Weight2–3 ounces
Wingspan15–18 inches

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker is a common species of Woodpecker found across much of the United States, including the state of Kentucky. These birds are an important part of our ecosystem and play an essential environmental role. Not only do they feed on a variety of insects, but their holes provide nesting sites for other animals.

Identified by its sizeable red head and white belly stripes, this species generally measures 9 to 11 inches long and has a wingspan of up to 18 inches. They can be seen perched atop dead trees or logs as they search for food in bark crevices or small cavities. Their diet consists mainly of insects such as ants, beetles, spiders, and caterpillars. In addition, they also eat other invertebrates such as frogs and lizards and fruits like wild grapes or holly berries when available.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker Woodpeckers in Kentucky


Scientific NameSphyrapicusvarius
Length7.5–8.5 inches
Weight1.5–2 ounces
Wingspan13.5–16 inches

A rare bird species has been spotted in Kentucky for the first time in over four decades. A group of ornithologists observed the yellow-bellied sapsucker, a medium-sized woodpecker with a distinctive yellow chest and white stripes across its back, during their survey at Jefferson Memorial Forest near Louisville.

This is exciting news for many bird watchers, as the species had been seen in 1976 when it was documented in Clark County. Since then, there have been no sightings until this recent observation. The birds migrate south each year from Canada and have been previously sighted in neighboring states such as Ohio and Indiana, but they had just ventured into Kentucky.

The sighting is also an encouraging sign that Kentucky’s climate is becoming more hospitable to these birds as temperatures become milder due to global warming.


Pileated Woodpeckers in Kentucky

Pileated Woodpeckers in Kentucky


Scientific NameDryocopuspileatus
Length16–19 inches
Weight9–14 ounces
Wingspan 26–30 inches

The Pileated Woodpecker is a beautiful and unique bird that can often be found in Kentucky. This large-bodied bird has an impressive wingspan, and its black, white, and red plumage make it easily identifiable. It is a species of particular concern in Kentucky due to its limited range and low numbers.

The Pileated Woodpecker lives mainly among mature hardwood forests across the eastern United States, including Kentucky. These birds have adapted to live in areas where large trees are present for their nesting activities, although they will also feed on smaller trees when necessary. The diet of these woodpeckers consists primarily of insects such as ants, termites, beetles, spiders, caterpillars, wasps, bees, and larvae.

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers in Kentucky


Scientific NameDryobates Borealis
Length7–9 inches
Weight1.5–2 ounces
Wingspan13–16 inches

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is an endangered species native to southeastern states in the U.S. The Red-cockaded Woodpeckers in Kentucky are rarely spotted in the wild, and their numbers are dwindling.

While not necessarily threatened by habitat destruction in Kentucky, the bird has been impacted by logging activities due to a lack of suitable habitat for nesting and roosting sites. The species often congregate near dead or dying trees with healthy branches capable of supporting their nests.

However, some success stories have been regarding conservation efforts towards this beautiful bird population in Kentucky. In recent years organizations like Wildlands Network have spearheaded initiatives that seek to protect and restore habitats for this endangered species across the state.

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

ivory-billed Woodpeckers in Kentucky


Scientific NameCampephilusprincipalis
Length18–20 inches
Weight1–1.24 pounds
Wingspan29–30 inches

The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker is a bird native to the southern United States. This large, striking bird has been identified as a critically endangered species, and its population numbers have drastically declined over the years. The last confirmed sighting of an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker in Kentucky was reported in 2005 when a small flock of them was spotted on the Cumberland Plateau in south-central Kentucky.

Since then, there have been numerous reports of potential sightings around Kentucky, but few have been able to be confirmed by scientists. There are still pockets of habitat suitable for the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker scattered throughout Kentucky, from forests near Mammoth Cave National Park to old-growth bottomland hardwood forests along the Ohio River and Mississippi River systems.

Final Thoughts

The presence of woodpeckers in Kentucky indicates that the environment is healthy and thriving. Woodpeckers are an essential part of the natural ecosystem, as they help maintain balance in their habitat by consuming insects and other pests. These birds’ long-term success depends on preserving their natural habitats. This can be done through land management, protection from development, and enforcement of existing laws to prevent hunting or trapping.

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