WA-List » Who’s That Rapping on Your Tree?

Who’s That Rapping on Your Tree?

Published by Steve Campion. Category: Plants & Animals

Seeing a Pileated Woodpecker — like the one shown here at right, hanging from my suet feeder last weekend — can be a birder’s delight.  Its large size, bright red crest, and distinctive call is hard to mistake in the Northwest woods.  But it’s only one of about a dozen woodpeckers living, breeding, or visiting Washington in any given year.  The smaller Downy Woodpecker (on my fence, below) and the Northern Flicker are easily the most common woodpeckers in the state.  You might see those in any mature forest in the Northwest.

The Red-breasted Sapsucker, the Hairy Woodpecker and the Pileated Woodpecker tend to be common in some areas (usually western or northeastern Washington) while the Red-naped Sapsucker is common only in the east.  Other members of the family are visible within more narrow ranges — forested hillsides along rivers, at certain elevations in the Cascade Range, or only in particular months of the year.  The Acorn Woodpecker and the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker have been documented in Washington, but are rare here and typically live elsewhere.

Below is an uncomplicated alphabetical list of Washington woodpeckers.  See the sources mentioned below for more information on any particular bird.  And please leave a comment if you’ve seen a woodpecker recently.  Which one(s)?  And where?


Woodpecker Latin name
Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus
American Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides dorsalis
Black-backed Woodpecker Picoides arcticus
Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens
Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus
Lewis’s Woodpecker Melanerpes lewis
Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus
Pileated Woodpecker Dryocopus pileatus
Red-breasted Sapsucker Sphyrapicus ruber
Red-naped Sapsucker Sphyrapicus nuchalis
White-headed Woodpecker Picoides albolarvatus
Williamson’s Sapsucker Sphyrapicus thyroideus
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius

SOURCES: Many bird guides will give you further details (range, identifying marks, and photos) so I chose not to duplicate their efforts here.  I will, however, suggest two excellent sources — one print and one online — that I have used extensively while birding the state.  (1) Bell, Brian H. and Kennedy, Gregory. Birds of Washington State. Auburn, WA: Lone Pine Publishing, 2006.  (2) Seattle Audubon Society. “Bird Web.” www.birdweb.org/birdweb/index.aspx.  Both sources specialize in Washington bird species and even suggest specific parks and rivers most likely to satisfy a birder in search of a particular bird.

PHOTOS © Steve Campion


2 Responses to “Who’s That Rapping on Your Tree?”

  1. Mara Funk Says:

    We’ve got many Northern Flickers around our Capitol Hill place. They have such a unique call and our cats go nuts when they hear them.

  2. Joan Says:

    There use to be more frequent visits by the Pilelated Woodpecker but not recently but I do get the Downy and the Northern flickers at my suet feeder in the garden in Lakewood.