9 Woodpeckers in New York State (Pictures, ID Guide, and Common Locations)

Written by Nixza Gonzalez
Updated: October 4, 2023
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New York State is a lot more than just New York City. This lovely northern state is rich in culture, history, and natural beauty. You can hike, climb, bike, kayak, and bird watch throughout the state. Some of the most stunning birds in the state are woodpeckers! These loud drumming birds are vibrant and charming. In this article, we have a list of 9 woodpeckers in New York State and the best places to find them.

1. Pileated Woodpecker

The first woodpecker on our list is the pileated woodpecker. These woodpeckers are native to large parts of North America. They are almost entirely black but have a white line down their throats and across their eyes. Pileated woodpeckers also have bright red crests. Adults are about 16 to 19 inches long with a wingspan of up to 30 inches.

Pileated woodpeckers are common in the eastern United States, including New York State. You can mainly find them in forests with old hardwood trees. Pileated woodpeckers have a wide diet. They mainly eat insects though like beetles and carpenter ants. However, pileated woodpeckers may also eat nuts, berries, and fruits.

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So, where can you find pileated woodpeckers in New York? The best places to bird watch for pileated woodpeckers in the state are state and local parks, including Durand Eastman Park in Rochester.

Pileated woodpecker portrait sitting on a tree trunk into the forest, Quebec, Canada

Pileated woodpeckers are almost entirely black but have a white line down their throats and across their eyes.

©Vlad G/Shutterstock.com

2. Downy Woodpecker

Another woodpecker species native to New York is the downy woodpecker. Downy woodpeckers are small, typically weighing less than an ounce. Usually, they are between 5.5 to 7.1 inches long. Female and male downy woodpeckers are nearly identical, but male downy woodpeckers have a red patch on the back of the head. Both male and female downy woodpeckers are mainly black on the upperparts and wings and have white backs. They also have white spotting on their wings.

Downy woodpeckers are not only beautiful but also loud. They have multiple vocalizations, apart from drumming. Downy woodpeckers nest in dead trees. 

In New York, you can find downy woodpeckers throughout the state. They are permanent year-round residents and are common in backyards, parks, and urban spaces.

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpeckers are the smallest woodpecker species in North America.


3. Red-headed Woodpecker

Next on our list of woodpeckers in New York State is the red-headed woodpecker. They are found throughout southern Canada and the east-central United States. Red-headed woodpeckers are tri-colored. They have red necks and heads, white bellies and rumps, and black backs and tails. Although similarly named to the red-bellied woodpeckers, they differ a lot in appearance.

Red-headed woodpeckers are also easy to identify because of their size. There are few differences, if any, between male and female red-headed woodpeckers. Both males and females are between 7.5 to 9.8 inches long with a wingspan of about 16.7 inches.

These lovely woodpeckers are omnivores. Although they mainly eat insects, nuts, and fruits, they’ve been recorded hunting rodents and bird eggs. The best time to see red-headed woodpeckers in New York is during spring and summer, although they are year-long residents.

Red-headed Woodpecker perches on a tree.

Red-headed woodpeckers have distinct bright red heads and necks. Male and female red-headed woodpeckers are identical.

©Benjamin King/Shutterstock.com

4. Northern Flicker

Northern flickers also live in New York State. These lovely birds are very common in North America. They are currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. These medium-sized birds are native to most of North America, parts of Central America, Cuba, and the Cayman Islands. They also go by many names, depending on the region. Northern flickers are also sometimes called walk-up, wick-up, yellowhammer, common flicker, and gaffer woodpecker.

These lovely and unique woodpeckers vary in appearance. There are ten recognized northern flicker subspecies, divided into two groups, the yellow-shafted group and the red-shafted group. Northern flickers are colorful. They have spots on their undersides and bellies, and thick stripes at the base of their beaks.

In New York, you can find northern flickers in state and local parks, like Albany Pine Bush Preserve, Peebles Island State Park, and Buckhorn Island State Park.

A Northern Flicker (2)

Northern flickers are very common in New York State.

©Fiona M. Donnelly/Shutterstock.com

5. Hairy Woodpecker

The fifth woodpecker on our list is the hairy woodpecker. They are sometimes confused for the smaller downy woodpecker. Hairy woodpeckers are native to parts of North, Central, and South America. Specifically, you can find these lovely and plump woodpeckers in the United States, Mexico, the Bahamas, Guatemala, Belize, and Canada.

Hairy woodpeckers, likely downy woodpeckers, are mainly black. They also have white backs and distinct white spotting on the black wings. They also have two white bars on their face, one above the eye, and the other below the eye. The biggest difference between a male and female hairy woodpecker is that males may have a red patch or two side-by-side patches.

These lovely birds are permanent residents of New York State. They mainly live in areas with mature deciduous forests with plenty of dead or decaying trees.

A male hairy woodpecker feeding at a man-made feeder

Hairy woodpeckers are permanent residents of New York State.

©Glass and Nature/Shutterstock.com

6. American Three-toed Woodpecker

Have you ever heard of the American three-toed woodpecker? This woodpecker species is mainly black and white, although adult males have an additional yellow cap on their heads not present in females. American three-toed woodpeckers are very similar in appearance to black-backed woodpeckers, which are native to boreal forests across Canada, Alaska, and the Northwestern United States.

American three-toed woodpeckers are medium-sized birds with a maximum length of around 8.3 inches. They also have a wingspan of about 15 inches, which is nearly double their length. American three-toed woodpeckers mainly fest of insects, fruits, and nuts. However, they may also look for tree sap.

male American Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides dorsalis on cottonwood trunk in Teslin, Yukon Canada

American three-toed woodpeckers are mainly black and white, although adult males have an additional yellow cap on their heads not present in females.

©Jukka Jantunen/Shutterstock.com

7. Red-bellied Woodpecker

The next woodpecker on our list is the red-bellied woodpecker. These woodpeckers are found mainly in the eastern United States. You can find them from Florida, all the way to parts of Canada. Red-bellied woodpeckers are very common. On the IUCN Red List, they are listed as Least Concern.

Red-bellied woodpeckers are typically light grey with black and white barred backs, wings, and tails. They are easy to identify from the reddish tinge on the belly. Male red-bellied woodpeckers also have a bright red cap on their head and females have a red patch on the nape and above the bill.

These lovely birds are about 9 to 10.5 inches long. They weigh up to 3.2 ounces. In New York State, you can find red-bellied woodpeckers in forests, urban parks, and community gardens. They are common across the state and are one of the easiest New York woodpeckers to identify.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker Perched on a Branch

As confusing as the redhead may be, the red-bellied woodpecker does have a red belly.


8. Black-backed Woodpecker

The eighth woodpecker on our list is the black-backed woodpecker. They are also known as the Arctic three-toed woodpecker. Black-backed woodpeckers are similar to American three-toed woodpeckers. These medium-sized woodpeckers live throughout northern North America, mainly in Canada. In the United States, they live in Alaska, Michigan, New York, New England, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. 

Black-backed woodpeckers are black and white. They have black feathers on their heads, backs, wings, and rumps. Adult males have a yellow cap, which is not present in females. On average, black-backed woodpeckers are 9.1 inches long. They also have a wingspan of up to 16.5 inches.

In New York, they are uncommon permanent residents. One of the best places to spot these lovely black-backed woodpeckers is the Adirondack Park.

Adult Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) in Alaska, United States.

In New York, you can find black-backed woodpeckers in the Adirondack Park.

©Agami Photo Agency/Shutterstock.com

9. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

The last woodpecker on our list is the yellow-bellied sapsucker. This lovely woodpecker species is native to Canada and the northeastern United States. They were first officially recorded and described in the early 1720s by English naturalist Mark Catesby. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are very common birds. Although they face threats, they are listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are about 7.5 to 8.25 inches long. On average they weigh a little less than 2 ounces. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are known for their pale yellow bellies. Adult yellow-bellied sapsuckers also have red foreheads, although it’s lighter in females.

These vibrant woodpeckers live in hardwood and conifer forests. In New York State, you can find yellow-bellied sapsuckers in rural areas and more urban places, like Brooklyn.

Yellow-belly sapsucker

Yellow-belly sapsuckers are omnivores, and like their namesake, sapsuckers eat, live, and breathe sap.

©Glass and Nature/Shutterstock.com

The photo featured at the top of this post is © BGSmith/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Nixza Gonzalez is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics like travel, geography, plants, and marine animals. She has over six years of experience as a content writer and holds an Associate of Arts Degree. A resident of Florida, Nixza loves spending time outdoors exploring state parks and tending to her container garden.

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