Woodpeckers in Utah

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Woodpeckers are one of the most fascinating avians you can find in your backyard – and did you know that there are 9 species in Utah?

There’s a good chance that if you have more than one woodpecker visiting you, you may actually be playing host to a few different species!

Although the list below contains all the usual woodpeckers found in Utah, it’s possible to find a vagrant species of woodpecker that’s not native to this particular state. If you do see a vagrant species, it should be considered an extremely rare sighting!


The following legend can be used for each woodpecker species map to determine what time of year you can see each woodpecker in your area.

Legend for the following woodpecker migration and range maps

9 woodpecker species are found in Utah, including the Red-Naped Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Ladder-Backed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Acorn Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Williamson’s Sapsucker, and the American Three-Toed Woodpecker. Several of these woodpecker species are permanent residents, while others are much rarer and can be only spotted seasonally.

The 9 Woodpecker Species in Utah


Red-naped Sapsucker

Sphyrapicus nuchalis

Order: Piciformes

Family: Picidae

Size: 7.5 – 8.3 in (19 – 21 cm)


This popular sapsucker is a common bird that’s growing in numbers – and that’s likely to thrill many woodpeckers elsewhere, as this is a sapsucker likely to leave lots of open holes for tasty sap. You’ll normally spot them out in forests like other sapsuckers, but you may get one or two in your yard if you are lucky enough! This woodpecker has an extraordinarily short tongue for its species, though that helps it to get at its daily sap. These sapsuckers can live to relatively old ages, with the oldest on record being almost five years of age.

How to Identify

The red-naped sapsucker has – of course – a red nape, with white and black markings often emblazoning its face, as well as its crest, body, and wings. It can get quite large, and given that it’s fairly common, you shouldn’t have any problem finding it.

Red-naped Sapsucker Range & Migration Map

These woodpeckers tend to live in the mid-elevation forests of the intermountain West, from the Rocky Mountains westward to the eastern slopes of Washington and Oregon. Most individuals migrate short distances with females migrating further than males on average. The northern birds move south into the western and southwestern United States.


Hairy Woodpecker

Dryobates villosus

Order: Piciformes

Family: Picidae

Size: 7.1 – 10.2 in (18 – 26 cm)


If there is a chance you’re going to spot a woodpecker in your backyard somewhere in the states, then it’s probably going to be a hairy species! The Dryobates villosus is extremely common, but it’s actually fairly shy and retiring. They have very simple calls but will be happy to drill and drum on just about anything. They are also prime opportunists – they’ll steal sap from holes drilled by other birds! The hairy woodpecker is also known for its mighty peck – it looks small, but it drills loudly!

How to Identify

The hairy woodpecker naturally has a fairly hairy appearance, though it’s also notable for its relatively long, pointed bill, as well as its distinct black and white coloring. Some species, however, can carry a brownish tint. They are generally white to the chest and are speckled to the wings.

Hairy Woodpecker Range & Migration Map

Where to start? This Picidae doesn’t tend to be fussy about climate, though you’ll normally see it amongst conifers. There are more than eight million of these birds across the continent, and their numbers are growing – there are no particular states where they are most prolific.


Lewis’s Woodpecker

Melanerpes lewis

Order: Piciformes

Family: Picidae

Size: 10.2 – 11.0 in (26 – 28 cm)


The Lewis’s Woodpecker is fairly rare, but also pretty hard to miss when you do spot one! This is a curious woodpecker in that it doesn’t tend to peck into wood for grubs – instead, it’s more partial to consuming the odd flying critter. Unfortunately, this is another woodpecker whose numbers are fairly rare, as its habitat is shrinking. The Lewis’s Woodpecker is a little bit of a nomad in its nature, in that it will be happy to search for food in various territories across the year. However, you’ll normally find it in burned forests and pineland.

How to Identify

Boasting gorgeous red and black features, Lewis’s woodpecker tends to be rosy around the face and beak, and to the crest and front plumage. You’ll find it has a magnificent, sweeping, black plumage to the wings and tail. You likely won’t hear it pecking or drilling.

Lewis’s Woodpecker Range & Migration Map

Lewis’s woodpecker, while uncommon, tends to be spotted to the southwest, as far out east as Oklahoma, and normally takes up refuge in forests. However, you’ll also find it in some spots of California – a rare spot that’s very rewarding.


Ladder-Backed Woodpecker

Dryobates scalaris

Order: Piciformes

Family: Picidae

Size: 6.3 – 7.1 in (16 – 18 cm)


Small but plucky, this is a monochromatic bird that you will normally find fluttering and drilling around the southern states. This bird loves the drier, warmer climate, and tends to nestle deep into some of the less moist forests across these territories. Thankfully, they have a stable population! These woodpeckers are branch foragers, choosing to peck around keenly for insects. They normally hide themselves during foraging – meaning they are not always easy to spot. That said, they don’t tend to spend much time in the air, either.

How to Identify

Largely black and white to the backs and wings, these woodpeckers often boast red crowns sweeping back, with black markings around their faces and beaks. They will often have brown tinges on their fronts, too.

Ladder-Backed Woodpecker Range & Migration Map

The ladder-backed woodpecker tends to be a common sight across the southern and southwestern states, and they can be seen further south in Central America. This tends to be a non-migratory woodpecker – it is often happy to stay local.


Northern Flicker

Colaptes auratus

Order: Piciformes

Family: Picidae

Size: 11.0 – 12.2 in (28 – 31 cm)


This Picidae is known by many, many different names – and you may well have seen it referred to as the Yellow or Red-shafted Flicker. It’s a fairly common bird and is also one of the largest woodpeckers living across the states. Unlike most peckers, however, they tend to feast mainly on ground insects – ants, in particular! This Flicker will choose to hop around to eat, but may even choose to site itself on branches occasionally when it fancies a fruit treat or two.

How to Identify

The Northern Flicker has plumage colors that can vary (hence its many names), but you can commonly spot these birds thanks to their flecked tails and wings. They often have black markings around their faces and crests, and you’ll be able to tell them apart from other Picidae on sheer size alone.

Northern Flicker Range & Migration Map

Northern Flickers tend to live out east but can be found high up in the northwest reaches of Alaska, and even down towards the west coast – that applies to the yellow-shafted variety, in any case! Flickers of this genus tend to be fairly common across the US, with almost ten million specimens estimated at present in North America.


Acorn Woodpecker

Melanerpes formicivorus

Order: Piciformes

Family: Picidae

Size: 7.5 – 9.1 in (19 – 23 cm)


The super-noisy acorn woodpecker is a born drummer, often rapping its talons against tree branches! They are so-named thanks to their propensity to hoard and store acorns for their young ones. They’ll spend much of their lives hunting and protecting nuts for their brood to eat. Acorn woodpeckers have fascinating social lives, often choosing to mate with multiple of the same species during a lifetime. The acorn woodpecker is one of few Picidae notable for avoiding monogamy. They also strive to guard their nests at all costs, too.

How to Identify

Other than noise, you’ll spot an acorn woodpecker thanks to its black-and-white coloring. The males have a mess of red feathers on their crown, while females have more black coloring on the forehead.

Acorn Woodpecker Range & Migration Map

You’ll normally find that acorn woodpeckers reside towards the southwest, with birds living in forestry deep into California, Washington State, and even in Texas and Arizona. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a few out in Colorado, across the Rockies, and into Nevada.


Downy Woodpecker

Dryobates pubescens

Order: Piciformes

Family: Picidae

Size: 5.5 – 6.7 in (14 – 17 cm)


Truly tiny, the cute downy woodpecker is a Picidae that’s common across the north to central states. In fact, they are the smallest native woodpeckers in the country. They tend to prefer milder climates on the whole but are known to travel around. They use sharp, single calls, and tend to enjoy feeding on seeds in feeders. If you have any woodpeckers in your backyard, there is a very good chance it is a Dryobates pubescens. They are just bigger than your common garden sparrow.

How to Identify

Exceptionally small but unabashedly noisy, the downy woodpecker is largely black and white with spots, and the males tend to have red crowns. They have varying spots and stripes across their wings and feathers – meaning that neither one nor two may ever look the same!

Downy Woodpecker Range & Migration Map

The downy woodpecker lives just about everywhere across the United States, with sightings across states as diverse as Florida and Alaska! If the climate is mild enough – and not too sunny – then there’s every chance you’ll spot this bird in your yard. There are around 13 million of them across the continent.


Williamson’s Sapsucker

Sphyrapicus thyroideus

Order: Piciformes

Family: Picidae

Size: 8.3 – 9.8 in (21 – 25 cm)


The Williamson’s sapsucker is a woodpecker that seems to be bouncing back from endangered status – thankfully! These are brilliantly bright-colored birds – at least when it comes to males! As with other sapsuckers, this bird will happily drill its way into trees and leave nice pits for birds to get sap out of. This sapsucker is also known to eat ants and bugs out of the bark it sucks from, though this will normally occur when it is breeding. It doesn’t have a favorite tree – it happily pecks away in a mix of woodland.

How to Identify

Interestingly, the males and females of this species often vary wildly – the male is extremely bright in color, in terms of a black, sweeping coat with yellows and reds to the front, while females are dimmer in shade, flecked and often brown in color.

Williamson’s Sapsucker Range & Migration Map

Despite once being endangered, this bird now thankfully frequents more of the mid-west than ever before. That said, the migratory patterns of this species are somewhat mysterious with some populations known to migrate and others to be residents.


American Three-toed Woodpecker

Picoides dorsalis

Order: Piciformes

Family: Picidae

Size: 8.3 – 9.1 in (21 – 23 cm)


These woodpeckers are so-named thanks to the obvious differences in their feet – they tend to lean back further than most woodpeckers thanks to their three toes! They also tend to be some of the noisier, more aggressive peckers, so that they can get a better strike on the bark they attack. American Three-toed woodpeckers tend to spend a lot of time pecking and scaling away at one or two trees before they will choose to go elsewhere – and they never get too deep into the bark.

How to Identify

As well as only having three toes, the American three-toed woodpecker is notable for having black / brown and white feathers, speckled, with a striking patterned face. Again, they can also be easy to spot thanks to their pecking habits.

American Three-toed Woodpecker Range & Migration Map

This Picidae is sadly one of the most endangered, though there are thought to be more than 1.4 million of them living across North America. They tend to inhabit forested mountain areas, and they also largely inhabit the upper half of the continent. If you live in Alaska, British Columbia, or out towards Canada, you may be lucky enough to spot one or two.


How to Attract Utah Woodpeckers to Your Yard

Want to see more woodpeckers in your backyard?

As you can see, there are more than a few wonderful woodpecker species to look out for across Utah. Some may not flock to gardens and backyards in favor of forests and woodland reaches – however, there’s a chance a rare bird or two may make its way to you.

If you’re keen to start spotting woodpeckers in your yard, why not take a look at our guide on how to attract woodpeckers? That’ll give you the basics of what’s required to attract woodpeckers.

Then, we’d recommend reading our buyer’s guide on choosing the best woodpecker feeder. Setting up a woodpecker feeder or two is the best way to guarantee that woodpeckers will visit your yard. While you’re at it, do make sure to read our full guide on what to feed woodpeckers, too – as getting their diet right will make a lot of difference!

There are a bunch of other ways to attract woodpeckers such as getting a bird bath and planting native trees that woodpeckers love.

All State Woodpeckers

Want to see what woodpecker species are found in other states? Here’s our complete list of woodpeckers found in each state:

About The Author
Robert has been an avid birdwatcher pretty much his entire life. Living in the suburbs he does his best to bring wild birds into his backyard. He currently has 13+ bird feeders in his yard and also raises and races homing pigeons. Robert writes part-time for Wild Yards, mostly about the subject he cares most about - birds.

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