Woodpeckers In Vermont

Woodpeckers In Vermont: Look Out For These 10 Species

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Vermont is not only known for its cheddar cheese and maple syrup, but also for the 260 species of bird that call the state home. Among these birds that avid birdwatchers can see in parks and around residential areas in Vermont are 10 species of woodpeckers, and we’ll talk about them in this article. 

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

  • Scientific Name: Dryobates pubescens 
  • Length: 5.5-7.1 inches
  • Weight: 0.71-1.16 ounces
  • Wingspan: 9.8-12.2 inches

The downy woodpecker is one of the smallest yet most popular woodpeckers in Vermont. It has a black body and white belly, back, and throat, with white markings on the wings. Males have a red patch of feathers at the back of the head. 

This bird likes to visit residential areas in the springtime, usually banging on trees and man-made objects. These woodpeckers usually eat insects like wood-boring beetles, ants, and wasps for food, but they also like to visit bird feeders full of sunflower seeds or suet when food is scarce. 

It’s common to find the downy woodpecker across the United States, including Vermont, year-round.

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

  • Scientific Name: Leuconotopicus villosus
  • Length: 7-10.2 inches
  • Weight: 1.4-3.4 ounces
  • Wingspan: 13- and 17 inches

The hairy woodpecker looks almost identical to its downy cousin, but comparing the birds’ size is a surefire way to tell the two woodpeckers apart, as hairies are visibly larger than downies.

The hairy woodpecker can be found throughout most of North America year-round, and to increase your chances of finding one or two of them, look in mature forests and open woodlands of oak and pine.

This bird often follows the pileated woodpecker to forage in the excavations left by the latter and also loves to feed on the sap from the sap wells dug by sapsuckers and nest in trees that have been infected with heart rot

Black-Backed Woodpecker

black-backed woodpecker

  • Scientific Name: Picoides arcticus
  • Length: about 9.1 inches 
  • Weight: 2.1-3.1 ounces
  • Wingspan: 15.8-16.5 inches

The black-backed woodpecker species has a dark black body with a white belly and a yellow patch on the crowns of male birds. The patch of feathers is also present in juveniles of both sexes.

These woodpeckers’ feathers are usually gray and covered in soot, as this bird likes to feed on the larvae that infest burned trees. It can also excavate healthy trees thanks to the strong blows of its bill.

This bird is also known as the Arctic three-toed woodpecker, and it’s one of only three woodpecker species that don’t have four toes.

American Three-Toed Woodpecker

American Three-Toed Woodpecker

  • Scientific Name: Picoides dorsalis
  • Length: 8.3-9.1 inches
  • Weight: 1.6-2.4 ounces
  • Wingspan: 14.6-15.3 inches

The American three-toed woodpecker looks very much like the black-backed woodpecker, but it is slightly smaller and has messy white barring on its back.

These woodpeckers are found in Vermont’s northeastern highlands, hanging around recently burned forests and looking for bark-beetle larvae.

Unlike other woodpeckers, the American three-toed woodpecker doesn’t dig deep into the bark; it only flakes off its outer layer bit by bit. As a result, you can easily find this bird if you keep an eye on the patchwork it leaves on trees as it reveals the lighter inner layer of bark. 

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

  • Scientific Name: Colaptes auratus 
  • Length: 11-14 inches 
  • Weight: 3-5.9 ounces
  • Wingspan: 17-21 inches

It’s not unusual to find the yellow-shafted northern flicker, or common flicker, in Vermont. This woodpecker is identified by the yellow feathers on the underside of its wings and tail, and its grayish-brown body features black markings and dots.

If you want to spot a northern flicker, you’ll need to keep your head down. Unlike other woodpeckers, this one is a ground feeder and likes to dig for ants and larvae. It also feeds on horizontal logs and likes to visit backyards to eat suet from bird feeders. 

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

  • Scientific Name: Dryocopus pileatus 
  • Length: 16-19 inches 
  • Weight: 9-14 ounces 
  • Wingspan: 26-30 inches

You might feel an odd sense of familiarity if you spot one of these woodpeckers in Vermont, and that’s probably because the pileated woodpecker is the inspiration behind the famous Woody Woodpecker.

This woodpecker, with its red crest and black and white back, is one of the biggest species found in North America. It has a strong bill that allows it to dig broad, rectangular holes as it forages for carpenter ants in dead wood and fallen logs. These holes are often big enough to break a small tree in half.

The pileated woodpecker also likes to feed on caterpillars and larvae, and it will more than likely visit your backyard if you have a feeder filled with suet. 

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

  • Scientific Name: Melanerpes carolinus
  • Length: 9-10.5 inches 
  • Weight: 2-3.2 ounces 
  • Wingspan: 15-18 inches 

Red-bellied woodpeckers are relatively easy to find in Vermont; spot them by their barred backs and distinctive red caps. They like to forage for larvae in dead trees and use their barbed tongues and sticky spit to catch them.

When they aren’t hitched to the branches of medium to large oak, hickory, and pine trees to forage, these woodpeckers feed on spiders, acorns, nuts, seeds, smaller birds, and lizards.

When food is scarce, the red-bellied woodpecker hides nuts and bugs in crevices so it can feed on them later. If you have a feeder filled with suet, you just may find one of these woodpeckers hanging around your backyard.

Red-Headed Woodpecker

Red-Headed Woodpecker

  • Scientific Name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus
  • Length: 7.5-9.8 inches 
  • Weight: 2-3.4 ounces
  • Wingspan: about 16.7 inches 

Young red-headed woodpeckers have gray heads, but by the time the birds reach adulthood, the feathers have turned red, complementing their black backs and white bellies well.

Though this medium-sized bird has a spike-like bill it uses to forage for larvae, it spends most of its time catching insects as they fly through the air. It digs its nest in dead wood and likes to feed on grains, nuts, berries, younger birds, and rodents.

Look for them in open woodlots, dead timber, or pine savannas, and listen carefully for the sounds of their tapping and drumming.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

  • Scientific Name: Sphyrapicus varius
  • Length: 7.5-8.3 inches
  • Weight: 1.2-2.2 ounces
  • Wingspan: 13.4-15.8 inches

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are usually found in Vermont during breeding season, and you can easily find these woodpeckers by following the pattern of the sap wells it digs to feed on the sap or listening for their stuttered drumming. Lots of birds and animals like to feed on the same sap wells. 

These woodpeckers are black and white with both males and females sporting bright red foreheads. Males have red throats, while the females’ are white.

The yellow-bellied sapsucker feeds on sticky sap, of course, but it’s also common for them to make a meal of the insects that find themselves stuck inside of it.

Lewis’s Woodpecker

Lewis's Woodpecker

  • Scientific Name: Melanerpes lewis
  • Length: 10-11 inches
  • Weight: 3.1-4.9 ounces
  • Wingspan: 19.3-20.5 inches

Meet Lewis’s woodpecker, named for Meriweather Lewis of the famed Lewis and Clark duo.

You’ll be able to distinguish this species from other woodpeckers in Vermont by its appearance. Its pink belly, gray collar, and dark green back make it stand out.

Look for them in burned forests and among pine trees, watching for flying insects to catch mid-air. It also eats fruits, berries, acorns, and nuts. Lewis’s woodpecker will even store food to eat during the winter, digging crevices in wood and stockpiling a decent supply.


If you’re one of many people who are interested in bird watching, you have a great chance of spotting a woodpecker in Vermont. These birds like to visit backyards to feed on suet and will occasionally drum on dead trees and man-made objects to announce their presence, so keep your eyes and ears open.

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