In West Virginia, there is a vibrant community of woodpeckers, with seven different species calling the state their home. From the smallest and most common visitor to backyard feeders, the downy woodpecker, to the massive and majestic pileated woodpecker, these birds can be found throughout the state, each with its unique characteristics and preferences. The red-headed woodpecker is known for its distinctive red head and food-hoarding habits, while the red-bellied woodpecker sports a crimson streak on the back of its head and is a regular at bird feeders. The yellow-bellied sapsucker, with its white feathers washed in yellow, relies on sap as its primary food source. To invite these fascinating creatures into your yard, consider providing their favorite foods, leaving dead trees for foraging, installing nest boxes, planting native fruit-bearing plants, and offering a water source such as a bird bath.
Woodpeckers of West Virginia
Woodpeckers are a fascinating and unique group of birds that can be found in various habitats throughout the United States, including West Virginia. With their distinctive tapping sounds and beautiful plumage, woodpeckers are a joy to observe and attract to your backyard. In this article, we will explore the different species of woodpeckers that call West Virginia home and provide tips on how to attract these vibrant birds to your yard.
Species of Woodpeckers in West Virginia
West Virginia is home to seven species of woodpeckers, each with its own characteristics and preferences. These species include the downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, northern flicker, pileated woodpecker, red-headed woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, and yellow-bellied sapsucker. Let’s take a closer look at each species and learn more about their appearance, habitat, and feeding behavior.
1. Downy Woodpecker
The downy woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker species in West Virginia, measuring around six inches in length. It has a black and white plumage, with black wings marked by white spots. The male downy woodpecker has a small red patch on the back of its head, while the female lacks this feature.
Downy woodpeckers can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, parks, and suburban areas. They are adaptable birds and are known to visit backyard bird feeders.
These woodpeckers primarily feed on insects such as beetles, ants, and caterpillars, which they discover by drumming and pecking on tree trunks. They may also consume seeds, berries, and sap. Providing suet or sunflower seeds in your bird feeder is a great way to attract downy woodpeckers to your yard.
2. Hairy Woodpecker
Slightly larger than the downy woodpecker, the hairy woodpecker measures around nine inches in length. It has a black and white plumage similar to the downy woodpecker, but lacks the red patch on its head. The hairy woodpecker can be identified by its larger size and its longer bill.
Hairy woodpeckers inhabit similar habitats as downy woodpeckers, such as forests, woodlands, and suburban areas. They are also known to visit backyard feeders, especially when offered suet or sunflower seeds.
Like downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers primarily feed on insects found on tree trunks. They also consume seeds and berries. Their foraging behavior involves drumming and pecking on trees to uncover their prey. By providing a variety of food sources and leaving dead trees for foraging, you can attract hairy woodpeckers to your yard.
3. Northern Flicker
The northern flicker is a larger woodpecker species, measuring around 12 inches in length. It has a unique appearance with a combination of brown, black, and white feathers. The male northern flicker has a black mustache mark on its face, while the female lacks this feature. Additionally, this species has a bold white rump patch that is visible during flight.
Northern flickers can be found in a wide range of habitats, including forests, woodlands, open fields, and suburban areas. They are known to excavate nest cavities in dead or decaying trees.
Northern flickers have a varied diet, which includes ants, beetles, and other insects found on the ground. They are also known to consume berries and fruits. To attract northern flickers, consider providing a mixture of insects, fruits, and seeds in your bird feeders.
4. Pileated Woodpecker
The pileated woodpecker is the largest woodpecker species in West Virginia, measuring around 17 inches in length. It has a striking appearance with a black body, white stripes on its face, and a vibrant red crest on its head. Both males and females have the distinct red crest.
Pileated woodpeckers prefer mature forests with large, dead trees, where they can excavate nest cavities. They can also be found in wooded suburban areas and parks.
These woodpeckers have a strong preference for carpenter ants, which they locate by excavating tree bark. They also feed on other insects, fruits, and nuts. Providing a mix of suet, nuts, and berries in your backyard can attract pileated woodpeckers.
5. Red-headed Woodpecker
As the name suggests, the red-headed woodpecker stands out with its bright red head. It has a black body, white belly, and black wings with white patches. Both males and females have the vibrant red head.
Red-headed woodpeckers can be found in open woodlands, orchards, areas with scattered trees, and pine forests.
These woodpeckers have interesting feeding habits. They are known to catch insects in mid-air and also store food, such as acorns and insect larvae, in crevices of tree bark. Offering a variety of insects, fruits, and nuts in your bird feeders can attract red-headed woodpeckers to your yard.
6. Red-bellied Woodpecker
Despite its name, the red-bellied woodpecker has only a small red patch on the back of its head. It has a black and white striped back, a grayish belly, and a pale breast. The males have a red patch that extends from the base of their bill to the back of their head, while the females have a smaller red patch.
Red-bellied woodpeckers are commonly found in woodlands, forests, and suburban areas. They are known to visit bird feeders, especially when offered suet or sunflower seeds.
These woodpeckers are opportunistic feeders, consuming insects, fruits, nuts, and seeds. They use their long, barbed tongue to extract insects from crevices. By providing a variety of food sources and leaving dead trees for foraging, you can attract red-bellied woodpeckers to your yard.
7. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
The yellow-bellied sapsucker has a unique appearance with a white face, black and white striped body, and a yellow wash on its white feathers. It has a crimson throat, and males have a red patch on their head.
Yellow-bellied sapsuckers prefer wooded areas with deciduous trees, such as forests, woodlands, and swamps.
As their name suggests, yellow-bellied sapsuckers primarily feed on sap. They drill horizontal rows of small holes in tree trunks and lap up the sap that oozes out. They also consume insects attracted to the sap. To attract yellow-bellied sapsuckers, consider providing a source of sap, such as a fruit tree, and leave dead trees for foraging.
Tips for Attracting Woodpeckers
Now that you are familiar with the woodpecker species in West Virginia, here are some tips to attract these marvelous birds to your yard:
Offering Food They Like
Woodpeckers have diverse diets, so providing a variety of food sources can attract different species. Consider offering suet, sunflower seeds, nuts, fruits, and insects in your bird feeders. Experimenting with different types of feed will help you determine your local woodpeckers’ preferences.
Leaving Dead Trees for Foraging
Dead or decaying trees provide an excellent source of food and nesting sites for woodpeckers. By leaving dead trees or logs in your yard, you create a natural foraging habitat that woodpeckers will be drawn to.
Putting Up Nest Boxes
Woodpeckers use cavities in trees for nesting. Installing nest boxes specifically designed for woodpeckers can provide them with alternative nesting options, especially in urban areas where suitable tree cavities may be scarce.
Planting Native Fruit-bearing Plants and Trees
Adding native fruit-bearing plants and trees, such as dogwood, serviceberry, and hawthorn, can attract woodpeckers by providing a natural food source. These plants not only benefit woodpeckers but also other native birds and wildlife.
Providing a Water Source
Woodpeckers, like other birds, need a water source for drinking and bathing. A bird bath or a shallow dish of water placed in your yard can attract woodpeckers, especially during hot summer days.
Attracting woodpeckers to your yard requires patience and a variety of enticing features. By following these tips and tailoring them to the woodpecker species in your area, you can create a welcoming habitat that will attract these beautiful birds. Enjoy the sights and sounds of woodpeckers as they visit your yard and bring joy to your birdwatching experiences.