Wisconsin Woodpecker Types

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Wisconsin's County Forest Association says the state is comprised of nearly 34.7 million acres of land. Sixteen million acres of that is covered with forests. No wonder woodpeckers; who love living, eating and nesting in trees; call Wisconsin home. Ten species of woodpeckers are found around the state. Of those ten species, two types of woodpecker migrate through Wisconsin to the north to breed. Another woodpecker is a rare visitor.


Woodpeckers make up the Picidae family in the Piciformes order. Within the family, there are 28 genera and 215 species of woodpeckers. Seven species of woodpecker, from five genera, live and breed permanently in Wisconsin. While the beaks of the Wisconsin woodpeckers differ, they all have zygodactylous toes, meaning two toes go forward and two behind. These toes help them securely climb the deciduous and coniferous trees in the state.

Genus: Picoides

Two members of the Picoides genus, the hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus) and the downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), live and breed around Wisconsin. Both can be found in urban areas, as well in deciduous and coniferous forests, and in brushy areas. The downy will also reside in swamps and bogs. The black-backed woodpecker (Picoides arcticus), a rare sight, visits northern Wisconsin near Lake Superior. The American three-toed woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis) migrates through Wisconsin.

Genus: Melanerpes

The red-headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) lives all over Wisconsin, including in urban areas. It prefers deciduous forests and brushy areas. The red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), like its red-headed cousin, lives throughout Wisconsin and in urban areas. Instead of brushy areas, the red-bellied prefers swamps and bogs. Lewis's woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis), discovered by and named for explorer Merriweather Lewis, is a duller colored bird and migrates through Wisconsin.

Other Wisconsin Woodpeckers

The yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) likes the deciduous and coniferous forests around Wisconsin, but resides in urban areas too. The Northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) adapts easily to several kinds of habitats, including both types of Wisconsin forests. The flicker is also seen in swamps, bogs, brushy areas, and on acres of Wisconsin farm land. The pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) is seen throughout the state in forests, swamps and bogs.

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