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Woodpeckers of Minnesota – 9 Species to Spot in Your Backyard Paradise Full Guide of 2024

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woodpeckers of minnesotaYou’re in for a delightful encounter with Minnesota’s remarkable woodpecker species!

From the tiny, black-and-white Downy woodpecker to the striking pileated woodpecker, you’ll witness a compelling array of these feathered wonders.

Brace yourself for the red-bellied woodpecker’s distinctive chip calls and the northern flicker’s relentless hunt for ants.

Experience the thrill of spotting the hairy woodpecker’s daring excavations in aging trees or the yellow-bellied sapsucker‘s ingenious sap wells.

Get ready to immerse yourself in the fascinating world of Minnesota’s woodpeckers – an adventure awaits!

Key Takeaways

  • Minnesota’s a veritable woodpecker haven, with nine species to spot – from the pint-sized downy to the breathtaking pileated, each one a feathered rock star in its own right!
  • These avian carpenters are nature’s home renovators, excavating cozy nests by chiseling away at aging trees. But don’t fret; they’re not out to demolish your property – just keep an eye on those valuable trees.
  • Want to attract these feathered friends to your backyard? Roll out the welcome mat with suet feeders, dead trees for nesting, and a smorgasbord of native plants. It’s like setting up an all-you-can-eat insect buffet!
  • While some woodpeckers are neighborhood regulars, others might make you feel like you’ve hit the birding jackpot if you spot them. Keep those binoculars handy and your ears perked for that telltale drumming – a sighting just might be lurking around the next tree trunk!

Species of Woodpeckers in Minnesota

Species of Woodpeckers in Minnesota
Minnesota is a woodpecker watcher’s paradise! You’ll find no fewer than nine species of these remarkable birds drilling holes and feasting on insects in your backyard.

From the tiny downy to the striking pileated, each woodpecker boasts unique field marks and behaviors. The hairy woodpecker’s piercing call echoes through woodlands, while the northern flicker’s dazzling underwings flash as it forages on the ground.

Attract these avian carpenters by providing suitable habitat – dead trees and dense vegetation for nesting and insects for dining. With some knowledge of their habits and a keen eye, you’ll soon become a woodpecker pro!

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker
The smallest woodpecker in Minnesota, the downy woodpecker, is a backyard favorite.

With its black wings adorned with white spots, this lively bird forages for insects on tree bark and visits suet feeders with gusto.

Males sport a distinctive red patch on the nape.

Nesting in tree cavities, you might hear their sharp, emphatic call notes echoing through your neighborhood.

Cherish these delightful birds by providing nest boxes and minimizing pesticide use to protect their insect food sources.

Downy woodpeckers bring joy and enrich our natural world – embrace their presence in your backyard paradise.

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker
If the downy is the smallest, then the hairy woodpecker is its larger cousin. You’ll recognize its distinctive black-and-white pattern adorning trees in deciduous and coniferous forests.

Its longer bill and outer tail feathers set it apart from the downy. Listen closely, and you may catch its higher-pitched call notes echoing through the woods as it forages for insects and larvae in tree bark crevices.

These avian carpenters are experts at excavating nesting cavities in large, aging trees, leaving their imprint on nature’s canvas. Their drumming behavior, a rhythmic rat-a-tat-tat on resonant wood, is a surefire sign of their industrious presence.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker
The red-bellied woodpecker, with its distinctive red cap and rosy belly patch, is a common sight at backyard feeders in southern Minnesota.

Although its name is a misnomer, you’ll quickly recognize this beauty flashing its crimson crown as it forages for insects and seeds.

Sadly, habitat loss has impacted their populations. However, you can help by putting out suet or seed feeders. These birds are also cavity nesters, so leave dead trees standing when possible.

With their lively chip calls and striking looks, red-bellied woodpeckers add color and character to your yard, reminding us to cherish nature’s jewels right outside our windows.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker
The majestic pileated woodpecker is tough to miss! About the size of a crow, this striking bird boasts a flaming red crest, black body, and crisp white stripes.

Its loud, rhythmic drumming on trees echoes through the forest like nature’s timpani.

These magnificent excavators chisel out nesting cavities in large, dead trees — a bonanza for other wildlife.

While foraging for insects, they scale trees and even stop by suet feeders.

With its unique looks and habits, the Pileated woodpecker offers a memorable backyard viewing experience for the lucky observer.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker
Speaking of short-distance migrants, you’ll definitely want to look out for the Northern Flicker. It’s the second-largest woodpecker in Minnesota and sports a striking pattern of yellow under its wings and tail – a sight that’ll make you do a double-take!

These ground-foragers are ant-eating machines, digging into the soil with their unique curved bills.

While some flickers stick around all year, others migrate northward in spring to breed. So keep an eye out for these cool customers strutting across your yard or perching on a nearby branch. Their presence means your backyard is a thriving ecosystem!

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker
You’ll be lucky if you spot the striking red-headed woodpecker in Minnesota.

Unfortunately, these beautiful birds have seen a decline in numbers due to habitat loss.

If you do catch a glimpse, marvel at their bold crimson head, white underside, and black back with distinct white wing markings.

Listen closely for their harsh calls echoing through the trees.

During breeding season, watch for them excavating nesting cavities in dead trees or utility poles.

Provide nest boxes to attract them, but understand their rarity – cherish any sighting of this remarkable woodpecker.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
The yellow-bellied sapsucker is a striking migratory woodpecker you’ll often find in Minnesota. This bird has a distinctive appearance with:

  1. A bright red cap
  2. Black and white stripes on its face
  3. A yellow belly that gives it its name

Despite its bold looks, the yellow-bellied sapsucker is a quiet bird, drilling neat rows of holes in trees to lap up the sap. Their diet also includes insects, fruit, and seeds. Help conserve these unique woodpeckers by leaving standing dead trees on your property, providing a crucial habitat for nesting and foraging. With a little patience, you may spot one visiting your backyard this spring!

Identifying Woodpeckers in Minnesota

Identifying Woodpeckers in Minnesota
You’ve become a skilled woodpecker spotter, but identifying these feathered friends can still be tricky. Pay close attention to their unique behaviors and habitats for clues.

Downy and hairy woodpeckers are backyard regulars. Pileated woodpeckers prefer mature forests with ample dead trees for excavating cavities.

Red-bellied woodpeckers are expanding northward, so keep an eye out for their zebra-backed plumage at your feeders.

Flickers forage on the ground for ants. Red-headed woodpeckers, though declining, boast striking crimson crowns.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the most common woodpecker in Minnesota?

You’ll most often see the downy woodpecker, Minnesota’s smallest and a frequent visitor to backyard feeders. Its black-and-white markings and sharp calls make it an unmistakable neighborhood bird.

Can you shoot a Pileated Woodpecker?

As the old saying goes, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." No, you can’t shoot a Pileated Woodpecker – it’s illegal and unethical. These magnificent birds are protected by law, and harming them carries severe penalties. Appreciate their beauty from a respectful distance instead.

Can you shoot pileated woodpeckers in MN?

No, you can’t legally shoot or harm pileated woodpeckers in Minnesota. These birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, making it illegal to kill, capture, or harass them without a permit.

How rare is it to see a Pileated Woodpecker?

About 20% of Minnesotans spot a pileated woodpecker each year. You’re lucky if you see one of these striking, crow-sized birds excavating a nesting cavity with its chisel-like bill. Their presence signals a healthy forest ecosystem.

How can woodpeckers be attracted to yards?

To attract woodpeckers, offer suet feeders, leave dead trees or branches for nesting, and grow native plants that provide food sources. Maintaining your yard with nature in mind creates an inviting habitat that these fascinating birds will flock to.

Do woodpeckers damage trees and property?

With a flurry of woodpecker drumming, yes, they can inflict damage on trees and structures by drilling holes for nesting or foraging. However, proper preventive measures like wrapping valuable trees or using deterrents can mitigate potential harm while coexisting harmoniously.

What predators pose threats to woodpeckers?

You’ll find hawks, owls, raccoons, and snakes posing threats to woodpeckers and their nests. Larger hawks and owls prey on adult birds, while snakes and raccoons raid nests for eggs or nestlings. Safeguarding nest sites is essential for their survival.

Are any woodpecker species endangered in Minnesota?

Coincidentally, no woodpecker species are currently endangered in Minnesota. However, the red-headed woodpecker has experienced population declines due to habitat loss, warranting conservation efforts to protect this striking bird.

How do woodpeckers find and store food?

Woodpeckers use their sharp beaks and long tongues to find insects under bark or within trees. They store food by either caching it in cavities or with sticky saliva in bark crevices.


Discovering the woodpeckers of Minnesota, an avian spectacle, is an experience worth venturing into. Equip yourself with sharp observation skills and a passion for nature’s marvels to fully appreciate these remarkable feathered companions. From backyard havens to woodland trails, let their distinctive drumming and unique behaviors lead you to unforgettable encounters, enriching your connection with Minnesota’s vibrant ecological tapestry.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh is a passionate bird enthusiast and author with a deep love for avian creatures. With years of experience studying and observing birds in their natural habitats, Mutasim has developed a profound understanding of their behavior, habitats, and conservation. Through his writings, Mutasim aims to inspire others to appreciate and protect the beautiful world of birds.