Woodpecker Facts

Woodpeckers make up a large family of similar birds. This family of birds has the ability to chisel wood with their beaks. They also have long tongues for grabbing bugs from the holes they make in trees and stiff tail feathers that help them keep their balance on the sides of trees. Woodpeckers have stiff, bristle-like feathers that cover their nostrils. These feathers prevent wood particles from being inhaled by the woodpecker when they peck on trees.

There are more than 180 species of woodpeckers in this scientific family called Picidae.


Woodpeckers can actually hear insects under the bark of a tree. Their thick skull allows them to hammer away at the bark to pull out the insect with their tongue. They also eat nuts, berries, ants and termites. They like to eat from bird feeders and are known to eat peanut butter or suet (a mix of lard and seeds).


Woodpeckers are found all over the world, except Madagascar and Australia. They are found in wooded areas and forests. They like to tap on tree trunks to find insects in the bark. Woodpeckers tap an estimated 8,000 to 12, 000 times a day. Certain groups of woodpeckers are found only in specific areas of the United States.

Main groups of woodpeckers

Northern American woodpeckers belong to the family Picidae. There are divided according to genus.

  • Colaptes. This group of woodpeckers are called Flickers. Flickers like to look for food on the ground in open areas.
  • Sphyrapicus. Sapsuckers are a part of this group of woodpeckers. They feed on the sap of trees instead of insects in trees.
  • Dryocopus. Pileated woodpeckers are part of this group. They are huge birds that live in forests.
  • Campephilus. This genus includes the ivory-billed woodpecker. This species of woodpecker was extinct for decades, but the population has recently recovered in the swampy area of Arkansas.
  • Picoide. This group has most of the woodpecker species, ranging from small to medium in size. They all have black and white plumage.
  • Melanerpes. This group includes the acorn woodpeckers, Lewis' woodpecker, red-headed woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker and Gila woodpecker.


Male woodpeckers hammer on trees to attract a mate. Overall, the male woodpeckers peck more on trees than the females.

Both male and female woodpeckers chisel the hole in a tree trunk for their nest. They carve out a hole that is one to two feet deep. They use wood chips for the bottom of the nest. Depending upon the species of woodpecker, on average they lay approximately four eggs. Both the male and female take turns sitting on the eggs. It takes anywhere from 12 to 14 days for the eggs to hatch. The male and female also take turns feeding the baby birds. They hatchlings usually leave the nest after about 24 to 26 days. The baby birds will stay with their parent birds until it becomes a fledgling. However, fledgling woodpeckers still rely on the parents to feed and care for them.

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