See the Top 6 Largest Woodpeckers Found In The United States

Desert birds tend to be much more abundant where the vegetation is lusher and thus offers more insects, fruit and seeds as food. Where the Arizona cities of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson and Mesa.
© weriset/Shutterstock.com

Written by Niccoy Walker

Updated: July 21, 2023

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6 Largest Woodpeckers Found in the United States
These super-sized woodpeckers keep insects in check all over the U.S.

Woodpeckers are unique in the bird world. They have super long tongues that wrap around their brains and zygodactyl toes that help them cling to trees. And, of course, their constant tree-tapping allows you to locate them quickly. These birds range in size from tiny piculets, which only grow up to three inches long to the imperial woodpecker, which measures over 24 inches. There are 23 species in the country, but only a few are considered significant in size. Discover the top six largest woodpeckers found in the United States and learn about their unique characteristics and habitats.

1. Ivory-billed Woodpecker – 21 Inches

Ivory-billed Woodpecker

Ivory-billed Woodpecker

had been on the endangered list since 1967

©Krishna8412/Shutterstock.com

The ivory-billed woodpecker has been the subject of much debate. This rare bird is possibly extinct. However, there have been scattered sightings of it over the decades, leading researchers to believe it is still alive, just endangered. Ivory-billed woodpeckers are native to the Southeastern United States and Cuba, where they have inhabited bottomland hardwood forests and coniferous forests. 

Some evidence in recent years has shown that these birds may still exist in areas of Florida, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Their population dwindled due to habitat destruction, so efforts are being made to restore the land. Along with being the most rare species, it is also the largest woodpecker found in the United States. The ivory-billed woodpecker stands up to 21 inches tall and features a two-and-a-half-foot wingspan. 

2. Pileated Woodpecker – 19 Inches

Female Pileated Woodpecker on Tree Trunk in Fall.

Pileated woodpeckers live in mature forests

©FotoRequest/Shutterstock.com

The pileated woodpecker is native to North America, where it predominately lives in Southern Canada and the Eastern United States. But there is also a population in the Pacific Northwest. They live in mature forests, often on large tracts of land. However, you can also find them in heavily wooded lots and parks. And they like to make large nests in dead trees.

If the ivory-billed woodpecker proves to be extinct, the pileated woodpecker would take its place as the largest living species in the United States. This woodpecker measures between 16 and 19 inches long, on average. And they feature a 26 to 30-inch wingspan. And the pileated woodpeckers in the northern regions are typically larger than those further south.

3. Northern Flicker – 14 Inches

Northern Flicker

Northern flickers are native to North and Central America

©Fiona M. Donnelly/Shutterstock.com

The Northern Flicker is a medium to large-sized woodpecker, measuring 11 to 14 inches on average. They also feature a 16 to 21-inch wingspan. This species is native to North America and Central America, and you can find it throughout most of the United States and Canada.

They live in open habitats with scattered trees, such as forest edges, woodlands, parks, and backyards. You can even spot them in mountain forests in the western part of the country. And they nest in trees or old burrow holes, such as those made by the bank swallow. There are ten subspecies of the northern flicker, ranging in size and color. And they inhabit different areas within their range, from Northern Canada down to Central America.

4. Gilded Flicker – 11 Inches

Desert birds tend to be much more abundant where the vegetation is lusher and thus offers more insects, fruit and seeds as food.  Where the Arizona cities of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson and Mesa.

The gilded flicker builds its nest in saguaro cacti

©weriset/Shutterstock.com

Gilded flickers are desert woodpeckers, measuring around 11 inches long. They live in Northwest Mexico and the Southwestern United States, primarily in Southern California and Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. The northern flicker can overlap with its regions. But you can tell the gilded flicker apart by their yellow underwings.

These woodpeckers build their nests in saguaro cacti, while northern flickers keep to riparian trees. However, sometimes the two species hybridize. The gilded flicker has four subspecies, each featuring slight variations and locations.

5. Lewis’s Woodpecker – 11 Inches

Lewis's Woodpecker

This striking, medium-sized woodpecker is found only in the western part of North America – it more frequently catches insects without boring into trees.

©Darryl Saffer/iStock via Getty Images

Tying with the gilded flicker for 5th place is Lewis’s woodpecker. This species averages a length between 10 and 11 inches. And they are easy to distinguish with their black and bright red plumage. It is named after Merriweather Lewis, who surveyed its range during the early 1800s.

Lewis’s woodpecker is native to North America, where it is primarily found in the Western United States. However, some populations find their way to Canada, Mexico, and the Midwest. They live in open pine woodlands, preferring to stay exposed rather than be hidden by tree cover. And they nest in dead tree cavities.

6. Red-bellied Woodpecker – 10.5 Inches

Red-bellied woodpecker and young

Red-bellied woodpeckers make their nest in a dead or decaying tree.

©FloridaStock/Shutterstock.com

The red-bellied woodpecker average nine to 10.5 inches long and features a 15 to 18-inch wingspan. This species lives in the Eastern United States, with a range extending from Florida to Canada. They are relatively common woodpeckers in eastern forests and woodlands. And they like to frequent backyard bird feeders. 

Now that you know the largest woodpeckers found in the United States, check out this article of the largest woodpeckers in the world!

Summary of the 6 Largest Woodpeckers Found in the United States

RankWoodpeckerSize
1Ivory-billed woodpecker21 inches
2Pileated Woodpecker19 inches
3Northern Flicker14 inches
4Gilded woodpecker11 inches
5Lewis’s Woodpecker11 inches
6Red-bellied Woodpecker10.5 inches


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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer for A-Z Animals, and her primary focus is on birds, travel, and interesting facts of all kinds. Niccoy has been writing and researching about travel, nature, wildlife, and business for several years and holds a business degree from Metropolitan State University in Denver. A resident of Florida, Niccoy enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time at the beach.

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