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Guide to Identifying East Coast Woodpeckers
There are a number of woodpeckers that frequent areas of the East Coast, appearing on trees and even at bird feeders. Their characteristic drumming noise on the bark of trees is difficult to miss. This will describe how to identify these woodpeckers. To be clear, the information and pictures in this article describe the woodpeckers of western Maryland, but these woodpeckers are common on much of the East Coast and elsewhere.
The pileated woodpecker is one of the largest woodpeckers, almost as big as a crow. It is easy to identify because of its striking, red crest. It has a black body and wings and a white stripe along the sides of its head and neck. It is typically seen from afar, though it will occasionally come to a bird feeder.
The red-headed woodpecker is the only woodpecker with a fully red head, making it easy to identify. Juveniles have a grey head. The wings are black with white sections, and the underside is white. The red-headed woodpecker will come to a bird feeder, and it seems to appear more commonly in the spring.
Contrary to its name, the red-bellied woodpecker does not have a visibly red belly. Instead, it has a red stripe on the back of its neck. On males, this stripe continues along the back of the head to the beak, but on females, it is only on the back of the neck. The red-bellied woodpecker has a zebra-like pattern on its wings and a white stomach. It will come to bird feeders.
The downy woodpecker is the smallest of the common woodpeckers. It has a black back, zebra-like wings, and a white stomach. It also has white stripes on its head. Males have a red spot on the back of their head. The downy woodpecker has no qualms about approaching a bird feeder and often feeds while other birds are present.
The hairy woodpecker looks like a large downy woodpecker. It too has zebra-like wings, a white underside, and white stripes on its head, and males have a red spot on the back of their head. However, the hairy woodpecker has a large, white patch on its back and a longer beak. It is more reclusive and is a less common sight at a bird feeder.
Which woodpecker is your favorite?
How to Increase the Chance of a Woodpecker Sighting
In order to attract woodpeckers, consider buying a suet feeder or woodpecker-geared bird seed. Woodpecker are much more likely to come to a bird feeder if they find the food desirable.