Many woodpeckers exist but not all will be seen at the feeder. After the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, the most common seen at area feeders will be the Red-bellied, and less common, the Red-headed Woodpecker, which are much larger than those species (about nine inches long). Pileated Woodpeckers and the nearly extinct but similarly colored Ivory-billed are the largest woodpeckers (about 16 inches long). These two rarely visit feeders, but are included for identification purposes.
The Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) is familiarly called a ladder-back because of its black and white striping on the back and wings. This woodpecker is sometimes confused with the Red-headed due to the red head coloring however; the Red-headed does not have the ladder-back coloration of the Red-bellied. The underparts are a mottled gray with a tinge of orange to reddish coloring (thus the common name). The distinctive feature on both the male and the female is the red crown from the nape of the neck to the bill. While this bird does not migrate, the range of the Red-bellied is the entire eastern U.S. with populations gradually moving north into Canada over the past century. The call is a soft chiv-chiv and is often heard just prior to coming to the feeder suet.
The Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) does not possess the ladder-back striping but has black as the primary coloring with a white rump and secondary wing feathers and a completly white belly. The head is entirely red compared to the Red-bellies red crown only. This woodpecker is stunning. The female is similar to the male and the juveniles are a brownish above and lighter below and gradually turn to the adult coloration in about one year. The range is similar to the Red-bellied inhabiting open woodlands and orchards, but migrates southeast for the winter. The call is a loud, harsh queark .
The Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) is crow sized and can be seen feeding on trees and fallen logs looking for ants, beetles and other insects. Coloration is mostly black with a white chin, a white stripe from the bill to the sides of the breast, a white patch at the base of the wings and white under wings. Adult males have a red crest and red under the eye, while the females are similar without the under eye coloration. The bill of this species is a grayish black.
The Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) was once thought to be extinct, but recent sightings in eastern Arkansas suggest it is not. Mostly black with a creamy white bill, males only have a red crest and without the red under the eye. The range is similar to the Pileated of eastern United States and Canada. If you positively identify an Ivory-billed woodpecker, you should report the sighting to your nearest Natural Resources representative with the specifics. To read more about the Ivory-billed go to the Audubon Society web-site.