8 Amazing Woodpeckers in Alabama You Didn’t Know Existed (2023)

16 Min Read

Alabama is home to a variety of woodpecker species. Every single woodpecker has its unique call.

These species of birds are especially known for their ability to excavate wood with their sharp beaks.

They play an important role in Alabama’s ecosystem by controlling insect populations.

Downy Woodpecker is one of the most common woodpeckers in Alabama. This bird can grow up to 6 inches long.

It has a black and white striped back. It loves to eat beetles, ants, and other insects. It can often be seen drumming on trees in search of food.

Woodpeckers in Alabama

Woodpeckers in Alabama are just so beautiful and colorful to watch. In Alabama, you can find Red-headed Woodpecker to Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

  • Red-headed Woodpecker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Flickers
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Red-cockaded Woodpecker

1. Red-headed Woodpecker in Alabama

Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-headed Woodpecker

The Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) is a striking bird with distinct plumage.

These birds have been spotted in various parts of Alabama, particularly during breeding seasons and migrations.

However, the Red-headed Woodpecker population in Alabama, like in many other areas, has decreased due to habitat loss and other factors.

Here are some simple tips for spotting Red-headed Woodpeckers in Alabama:

Habitat: Look for them in open woodlands, savannas, orchards, and even suburban areas with mature trees like oaks, hickories, and pines.

Feeding Habits: Red-headed Woodpeckers are skilled at catching insects in mid-air and storing them in tree crevices or fence posts. They also enjoy nuts, seeds, and fruits.

Distinctive Appearance: Adult Red-headed Woodpeckers have a striking appearance with their bright red head, white belly, and black wings and tail. They are medium-sized woodpeckers.

Listen Up: Pay attention to their calls and songs. They make various sounds, including a sharp “tchur” or “churr” call. Learning their vocalizations can help you locate them.

Nesting Sites: Look for nesting holes, as they nest in cavities, often in dead or decaying trees. Observe their activities around nesting areas.

Migration: In southern Alabama, you may spot them year-round, while in the north, they can be migratory. During migration, you might see more of them.

Conservation: Red-headed Woodpeckers are considered near-threatened due to population declines. Protecting their habitat is crucial for their survival.

Remember to respect these birds and their habitats when birdwatching.

2. Pileated Woodpecker in Alabama

Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker, a remarkable bird known for its distinctive appearance and drumming sounds, can be found in various parts of Alabama. Here’s how you can spot them:

Habitat: Pileated Woodpeckers thrive in mature forests and wooded areas, especially those with large trees. Look for them in both deciduous and coniferous forests.

Appearance: These woodpeckers are large, about the size of a crow, with striking black bodies and hitting red crests on their heads. Their white stripes make them easily recognizable.

Foraging: Pileated Woodpeckers primarily feed on insects found under tree bark, but they also enjoy fruits and nuts. Listen for their loud drumming as they excavate trees in search of insects.

Calls: While in the woods, listen for their distinctive calls, which include a series of “kuk-kuk-kuk” sounds.

Nesting: Pileated Woodpeckers excavate nest cavities in tree trunks for their breeding purposes. Watch for rectangular-shaped holes in trees as signs of their presence.

Year-Round Residents: In Alabama, Pileated Woodpeckers are year-round residents, so you have a good chance of spotting them throughout the year.

Conservation: Although not currently considered a threatened species, these woodpeckers still benefit from conservation efforts aimed at preserving their woodland habitats.

When birdwatching, remember to maintain a respectful distance and avoid disturbing these magnificent birds.

3. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) is a common and colorful bird found in Alabama. Here’s straightforward information on spotting and identifying this bird:

Appearance: Red-bellied Woodpeckers have a striking appearance with a red cap on their heads, a pale belly with a slight reddish tint, and zebra-like black-and-white stripes on their backs. Males typically have a red forehead, while females have a smaller red patch at the nape of their neck.

Habitat: They inhabit woodlands, forests, parks, and suburban areas throughout Alabama. Look for them in trees, especially near bird feeders.

Feeding: Red-bellied Woodpeckers feed on insects, fruits, nuts, and seeds. You might spot them at bird feeders enjoying sunflower seeds or suet.

Behavior: They are agile climbers and use their strong bills to tap on tree trunks, searching for insects and making distinctive “churr” calls.

Voice: Listen for their call, which sounds like a rapid “churr-churr.” They are quite vocal and use calls to communicate with each other.

Nesting: These woodpeckers nest in tree cavities, often using abandoned nest sites created by other birds or making their own. Keep an eye out for nest holes in tree trunks.

Range: Red-bellied Woodpeckers are year-round residents in Alabama, so you can spot them throughout the year.

Conservation: They are not considered threatened and have adapted well to human-altered landscapes.

4. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in Alabama

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a special woodpecker found in parts of North America, including some areas in Alabama.

Looks: Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are medium-sized woodpeckers with a distinct appearance. They’re black and white with a white belly and a bright red crown on their heads. Males have a red throat patch, while females have a white throat.

Where to Find: While not super common in Alabama, you can spot Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers there, mainly during migration. They usually live in northern regions but come south during winter.

Habitat: Look for them in mixed woodlands, forests, or even suburban areas with the right trees, like birches and maples.

Diet: These woodpeckers have a unique way of eating. They drill tiny holes in tree bark, creating sapwells. They feed on sap and insects attracted to it. They also eat insects they find in tree bark.

Sounds: They make distinct sounds, including mewing or whining calls. They can also sound like a cat with a “new” noise.

Drumming: While they drum on trees like other woodpeckers, their tapping is slower and more rhythmic.

Migration: In Alabama, you’re more likely to see them during their winter migration when they head south for food.

Protection: Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers aren’t threatened, but preserving their forested homes is important.

When birdwatching, look for sapwells on trees and listen for their unique calls.

5. Northern Flicker in Alabama

Northern Flicker
Northern Flicker

The Northern Flicker is a common woodpecker you can find in Alabama. Here’s a simple guide to this bird:

Appearance: Northern Flickers are medium-sized woodpeckers with a distinctive appearance. They have brown feathers with black spots on their backs, a white belly, and a noticeable black crescent on their chest.

Habitat: Look for them in open areas, fields, and woodlands across Alabama. They often forage on the ground for ants and beetles.

Diet: Their primary food includes ants and beetles, and they are one of the few woodpeckers that feed extensively on the ground. You might see them probing the soil with their long beaks.

Flight: When they fly, they display white rump feathers and a flash of bright yellow under their wings.

Calls: Northern Flickers make a loud, distinctive “wick-a-wick-a-wick” call. Listen for this sound when trying to identify them.

Nesting: They typically nest in tree cavities or even in birdhouses.

Year-Round Residents: In Alabama, Northern Flickers are year-round residents, so you can spot them throughout the year.

Conservation: These woodpeckers are not considered threatened, but preserving their natural habitats is essential.

When birdwatching, keep an eye on open areas, listen for their calls, and look for their unique markings. Northern Flickers add a touch of beauty to Alabama’s bird diversity. Enjoy your birdwatching adventures.

6. Flickers: Alabama’s Woodpecker Marvels


Flickers, a type of woodpecker, are fascinating birds commonly seen in Alabama.

Distinctive Appearance: Flickers are medium-sized woodpeckers with noticeable features. They have brown feathers with black spots on their backs, a white belly, and a distinct black crescent on their chests.

Habitat: You can find Flickers in various Alabama settings, from open areas to woodlands. They have a special liking for foraging on the ground, searching for ants and beetles.

Diet: These birds mainly feast on ants and beetles, which sets them apart from other woodpeckers. Watch them use their long beaks to probe the soil for these tasty treats.

In Flight: When Flickers take to the sky, they reveal a striking white rump and a flash of vibrant yellow beneath their wings, creating a captivating sight.

Distinct Call: Flickers produce a loud and unique “wick-a-wick-a-wick” call. Keep your ears open for this sound when birdwatching.

Nesting Preferences: Flickers often choose tree cavities or even birdhouses for nesting.

Year-Round Residents: In Alabama, Flickers stay year-round, making them a consistent sighting throughout all seasons.

Conservation: While not currently considered threatened, it’s important to protect their natural habitats for their continued well-being.

When birdwatching in Alabama, keep an eye out in open areas, listen for their distinctive calls, and admire their striking markings.

7. Downy Woodpecker in Alabama

Downy Woodpecker
Image: Downy Woodpecker

The Downy Woodpecker, a small yet charismatic bird, can be spotted throughout Alabama.

Tiny Marvel: The Downy Woodpecker is a petite woodpecker, known for its charming appearance. It has a black-and-white plumage, a white belly, and a distinct black cap on its head. Males sport a tiny red spot on the back of their heads.

Abundant Presence: Downy Woodpeckers are widespread in Alabama, making them a common sight in various habitats, including woodlands, parks, and even residential areas.

Diet: Their diet consists mainly of insects, insect larvae, and tree sap. Watch them expertly use their sharp beaks to tap on trees for food.

Sounds of Nature: While they may not be as loud as larger woodpecker species, Downy Woodpeckers produce soft “pik” calls and drumming sounds to communicate and establish territory.

Nesting Habits: These woodpeckers often choose tree branches or nest boxes for their homes. Keep an eye out for their distinctive nesting holes.

Year-Round Companions: In Alabama, Downy Woodpeckers are year-round residents, making them a constant presence for birdwatchers.

Conservation: They are not considered endangered, but maintaining suitable habitats with trees is essential to support their populations.

When birdwatching in Alabama, pay attention to trees, listen for their calls, and keep an eye out for their lovely black-and-white markings.

8. Red-cockaded Woodpecker in Alabama

red cockaded woodpecker
red-cockaded woodpecker

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is a unique and scarce bird species that can be found in certain areas of Alabama.

Distinctive Appearance: The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is a small bird with a striking look. It has black-and-white feathers and a tiny red patch on its cheek, often called a “cockade.”

Limited Range: In Alabama, you’ll primarily encounter these woodpeckers in specific forests, especially longleaf pine forests in the southern part of the state.

Habitat Specialists: They are highly adapted to mature longleaf pine forests, where they both find food and build their nests.

Diet: Red-cockaded Woodpeckers feed on insects found under the bark of longleaf pine trees. They’re skilled at making cavities to reach their prey.

Unique Social Structure: Unlike many other woodpecker species, these birds live in family groups, often cooperating to raise their young.

Conservation Concern: Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are listed as endangered due to habitat loss and changes in forest management practices. Conservation actions are crucial for their survival.

Protected Habitat: Conservation efforts aim to safeguard and restore their longleaf pine habitat, which benefits not only the woodpeckers but also other wildlife.

Rare Sightings: Given their limited range and endangered status, spotting a Red-cockaded Woodpecker in Alabama is a rare and special occurrence.

When observing these woodpeckers in Alabama, always respect their delicate habitat and adhere to conservation guidelines.


As we wrap up our woodpecker expedition, remember that these birds are the hidden gems of Alabama’s natural beauty. The Red-headed Woodpecker, the mighty Pileated Woodpecker, and their pals are vital to our ecosystem. Whether you’re out in the wild or peering from your porch, treat these woodpeckers and their homes with care and respect. So, grab your binoculars, embark on your birdwatching quest, and let Alabama’s woodpeckers amaze you with their splendor! Happy birding!


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