Colorado is a gorgeous state filled with a wide range of natural elements that attract a large variety of wildlife from bats, bears, and beavers all the way to moose, mountain lions, and red foxes.
On top of the list, however, come birds. To be exact, a total of 513 species of birds have been documented in Colorado as of July 2020. Thanks to its many forests and large State Parks, Colorado is known for being home to a wide collection of woodpecker species.
The list below includes the 13 woodpecker species you can find in Colorado.
- Scientific Name: Melanerpes formicivorus
- Length:5 – 9.1 inches
- Weight:3 – 3.2 oz
- Wingspan:8 – 16.9 inches
- Additional Information: The Acorn Woodpecker is a red-headed bird with some unusual excavation habits. It’s known to spend most of its time drilling holes. Unlike other woodpeckers, Acorn Woodpeckers nest and roost in cavities only.
This bird also actively stores nuts or acorns to provide food for themselves and their families in winter. You can easily spot the Acorn Woodpecker in Colorado year-round because it likes to stay put in one place, particularly around the Rocky Mountains at lower elevations.
- Scientific Name: Melanerpes lewis
- Length:2 – 11 inches
- Weight:1 – 4.9 oz
- Wingspan:3 – 20.5 inches
- Additional Information: named after the original discoverer, Lewis’s Woodpecker almost never acts like a woodpecker even though it’s in the name. Instead of busting through the wood for a snack, this bird likes to hunt and forage like crows and flycatchers.
In Colorado, you can find Lewis’s Woodpecker year-round in most places, with birds in the northern part of the state usually venturing down south in the winter. You can spot this woodpecker in the state parks and forests, especially ones with lots of deadwood.
- Scientific Name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus
- Length:3 – 9.9 inches
- Weight:0 – 3.4 oz
- Wingspan:9 – 14.6 inches
- Additional Information: sporting a bright red set of head feathers, this bird is very easy to spot. Finding these woodpeckers, however, can be tricky since young Red-Headed Woodpeckers actually display brown heads until they’re about 1 year old.
This makes it possible to confuse them with other species, fortunately, they get their unique colors as they age. These birds are rather widespread across the Rocky Mountains, where you can see them nesting in deadwood trees, parks, and fence posts.
- Scientific Name: Sphyrapicus nuchalis
- Length:5 – 8.3 inches
- Weight:1 – 2.3 oz
- Wingspan:2 – 16.9 inches
- Additional Information: boasting a red stripe across its head and a red patch of feathers on their throats, the Red-naped Sapsucker is pretty easy to identify even for beginners. These birds typically nest in tree cavities high off the ground, staying in the same tree year over year.
This woodpecker prefers Colorado as a breeding ground since the state is rich in trees. The best way to locate these birds is to visit areas with plenty of Aspen trees. Many of Colorado’s mountain towns and cities fit the criteria, particularly Aspen and Estes Park.
- Scientific Name: Melanerpes carolinus
- Length:0 – 10.5 inches
- Weight:0 – 3.2 oz
- Wingspan:0 – 16.5 inches
- Additional Information: wearing a vibrant red-colored head and a distinctive black & white pattern on the back, you can easily spot the red-bellied woodpecker from a great distance. Despite their name, these birds actually display a flush of pink across their bellies that can be somewhat difficult to see.
In Colorado, you can find the Red-Bellied Woodpecker year-round. Though these woodpeckers don’t migrate, they tend to head down to lower elevations or even south on occasion.
You can mostly spot them across the Rocky Mountains, particularly on the eastern side. Still, they can be in other naturally wooded areas around the state and can sometimes venture to less wooded places depending on the weather.
- Scientific Name: Dryobates pubescens
- Length:5 – 6.7 inches
- Weight:7 – 1.0 oz
- Wingspan:8 – 11.8 inches
- Additional Information: small and adorable, the Downy Woodpecker is known to nest in deadwood trees at tall heights that are sometimes alarming. This bird has a rather unique parenting style where both parents incubate the egg, not just the female.
Spotting the Downy Woodpecker is a year-round possibility in Colorado as long as you know where to look.
The more natural areas are your best bet, particularly the Rocky Mountains and surrounding regions. Colorado’s wildfires and controlled burnings make for an ideal hunting ground for these woodpeckers who actively prefer deadwood.
- Scientific Name: Dryobates villosus
- Length:1 – 10.2 inches
- Weight:4 – 3.4 oz
- Wingspan:0 – 16.1 inches
- Additional Information: This black & white beauty is a distant relative to the Downy Woodpecker, considered by many to simply be a larger version of the bird. The Hairy Woodpecker does share many similarities with the Downy Woodpecker, including territory, but they stick to different parts of an area.
The Hairy Woodpecker has a signature call, which is a sharp series of notes, that makes it pretty easy to spot if it’s around. You can find this woodpecker any time throughout the year in Colorado, spending its days hunting around for bugs.
These birds generally prefer to stay in the forest unless the weather forces them to venture to new areas for food. The Hairy Woodpecker is partial to Colorado because it likes wooded areas, especially where dead wood is present.
- Scientific Name: Colaptes auratus
- Length:0 – 12.2 inches
- Weight:9 – 5.6 oz
- Wingspan:5 – 20.1 inches
- Additional Information: Flickers are categorized into two distinct groups, both of which have brown backs and wings with black barring. They display a tan face and a buff to greyish belly with heavy black spotting.
You can identify the Yellow-shafted Flicker, found in the eastern United States, by its yellow underwings and undertail, a red nape crescent with a grey crown, a grey or tan forehead, and a black mustache. The female yellow-shafted flicker doesn’t have the black mustache
On the other hand, the Red-shafted Flicker of the western United States sports reddish underwings and undertail with a red mustache.
Generally speaking, the Northern Flicker prefers to live in the open country close to large trees, forest edges, parks, and residential areas. These birds eat insects, especially ants and beetles. They also eat seeds and fruits.
- Scientific Name: Sphyrapicus thyroideus
- Length:3 – 9.8 inches
- Weight:6 – 1.9 oz
- Wingspan: 17 inches
- Additional Information: The adult males are velvety black with a white wing patch and a yellow belly. They have a white line behind the eye and a red throat. The adult female is banded in black and white, with a brownish head.
This woodpecker prefers to nest in the coniferous and mixed conifer-deciduous forests of mountainous western North America, inhabiting drier forests with larch, fir, spruce, pine, hemlock, birch, and aspen trees at a higher elevation.
- Scientific Name: Sphyrapicus ruber
- Length:9 – 8.7 inches
- Weight:9 – 2.2 oz
- Wingspan:6 – 16.0 inches
- Additional Information: These cute birds rock vibrant red necks and chests. They’re highly active, constantly looking for food and mates.
The Red-breasted Sapsucker is generally a year-round bird, but you’re more likely to spot them in Colorado during the winter. This woodpecker prefers coniferous forests, so you have better chances of finding it in the more wild side of Colorado, particularly the Rocky Mountains.
- Scientific Name: Sphyrapicus varius
- Length:1 – 8.7 inches
- Weight:5 – 1.9 oz
- Wingspan:4 – 15.8 inches
- Additional Information: sporting black wings with white marks on their back, the Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers also have a longitudinal wing stripe and a cream-colored underside with streaks. Males have a red throat as well, while females have a white throat.
This woodpecker likes living in forests, woodlots, and orchards, where it feeds on tree sap, insects, fruits, berries, and tree buds. It drills in more than 200 native tree species, but it enjoys white birch the most since it provides the highest sap sugar content.
American Three-Toed Woodpecker
- Scientific Name: Picoides dorsalis
- Length: 3 – 9.1 inches
- Weight:6 – 2.4 oz
- Wingspan:6 – 15.3 inches
- Additional Information: Known for their distinct interest in the pine beetle, these woodpeckers help decrease the population of the destructive beetles in Colorado’s forests.
You can easily find this woodpecker in nest cavities lined with wood chips. While it’s a nonmigratory bird, the American Three-toed Woodpecker doesn’t always stay put, especially if it gets cold and the bugs leave.
- Scientific Name: Dryobates scalaris
- Length: 3 – 7.1 inches
- Weight:7 – 1.7 oz
- Wingspan:0 inches
- Additional Information: these woodpeckers are black-and-white above, with neat stripes resembling ladder rungs on the back. Males mostly have red crowns while females have blackish crowns.
Ladder-backed Woodpeckers prefer living in very dry habitats. In southeastern Colorado, you can spot them in juniper and pinyon-juniper woodlands in the lowlands.
With so many fascinating woodpeckers to spot in Colorado, it’s no wonder this state is a dream destination for any avid birdwatcher.