Blue Woodpeckers: Do They Really Exist?

Blue woodpecker perched on an old tree bark

If you are curious about the existence of blue woodpeckers, it is time to get to know them. These birds have sparked many people’s interest because they are extremely rare and unusual.

Furthermore, given that woodpeckers come in a mix of black, red, yellow, green, gold, and white colors, it is understandable to wonder if there could be a blue version of them.

In this article, you will learn everything about the blue woodpecker. You will discover whether it really exists or not, know what other types of birds can be easily confused with it, and more. Let’s get started!

Are There Any Blue Woodpeckers?

Young Woodpecker up close

If you’ve ever wondered if a blue woodpecker exists, the answer is no; there are no documented records of such a species. Most woodpeckers are black with white stripes, often crowned with a red crest. Any blue-feathered bird that resembles a woodpecker is probably a different breed altogether.

In my long experience with wildlife, I have encountered many blue-colored birds resembling woodpeckers. This confusion occurs because of the similarities in their builds, feather structures, bill shapes, and behaviors.

For instance, Blue Jays, Steller’s Jays, Belted Kingfishers, and Eastern Bluebirds are species some people might mistake for blue woodpeckers — all worthy of their spots as types of blue birds.

However, bear in mind that a woodpecker is a member of the family Picidae. Meanwhile, these other animals are parts of different families or orders of birds.

8 Blue Birds That Look Like Woodpeckers

As of yet, there have been no sightings of blue woodpeckers in the wild. With that being said, note that there are many reports of blue-colored birds that look like they could be woodpeckers.

In this section, eight species that resemble blue woodpeckers will be discussed. This way, if you ever encounter one of these woodpecker-like birds and need clarification on its identity, you can consult this list for help.

1. Blue Jay

A Blue Jay that looks like a blue Woodpecker

Among the few species that might be confused with a blue woodpecker, the Blue Jay notably stands out. It is a migratory bird primarily found in the eastern and central parts of the United States.

Generally, while it shares a spiky crest with woodpeckers, the two aren’t related, as Blue Jays are part of the Corvidae family.

In terms of appearance, these birds’ feathers are a striking mix of bright blue, white, and black. Further, you will find that their beaks appear as pointed as those of woodpeckers.

To see an interaction between a Blue Jay and a woodpecker, you can watch the following video:

Woodpecker vs. Blue Jay

2. Blue Pitta

A Blue Pitta that looks like a blue Woodpecker

Another bird often mistaken for a blue woodpecker is the Blue Pitta. Native to the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia, this nine-inch feathered creature is known for its black and white markings, similar to woodpeckers.

However, note that Blue Pittas have a distinct, rounder, and bluer appearance, setting them apart from their woodpecker counterparts.

3. Steller’s Jay

A Stellers Jay that looks like a blue Woodpecker

The Steller’s Jay is a colorful blue bird many people mistake for a blue woodpecker. While it’s closely related to the Blue Jay, it has its unique charm, sometimes humorously referred to as the “crow in a blue suit.”

Their shaggy, pointed crest is reminiscent of many woodpeckers, which also makes them one of the top crested birds of North America.

However, a keen observer will notice that Steller’s Jays have more rounded wings, distinguishing them from the typical woodpecker profile.

4. California Scrub-Jay

A California Scrub Jay that looks like a blue Woodpecker

The California Scrub-Jay is a bird that is often confused with the blue woodpecker, but it is its own species. It is found throughout much of North America.

Appearance-wise, California Scrub-Jays can remind birdwatchers of the Great Spotted woodpecker. They share similar physical characteristics, including their long, thick bills.

However, keep in mind that these two birds’ coloration differs significantly, as Great Spotted woodpeckers generally appear more vibrant than California Scrub-Jays.

5. Little Blue Heron

A Little Blue Heron that looks like a blue Woodpecker

It may come as a surprise, but the Little Blue heron, which has an extremely long beak, sometimes gets mistaken for a blue woodpecker.

Yet, note that one significant difference sets them apart: their size. Little Blue herons can grow to a height of up to 29 inches, considerably larger than woodpeckers.

As far as habitat preferences go, Little Blue herons, like their Great Blue heron cousins, are commonly seen in North American wet environments like marshes, rice fields, and shores.

6. Belted Kingfisher

A Belted Kingfisher that looks like a blue Woodpecker

The Belted Kingfisher is another species of bird that regularly gets mistaken for a blue woodpecker.

This is due to the fact that it boasts attributes like a straight beak, large head, and spikey crest, all of which are similar to those of your common woodpeckers.

Yet, what differentiates Belted Kingfishers from these driller-like birds is their sexual dimorphism.

For one, their females are more vibrantly colored than males, which can help you tell the genders apart if you ever come across a Belted Kingfisher in the wild.

Meanwhile, woodpeckers are monomorphic, meaning they have no noticeable differences between sexes. Both genders can be identified as blue birds with orange chests.

7. Barn Swallow

A Barn Swallow that looks like a blue Woodpecker

Though often confused with a blue woodpecker, the Barn swallow belongs to the Hirundinidae family, which also includes martins. It is one of the most common swallows in the United States.

Specifically, this widespread species appears to be quite similar to the Red-headed woodpecker, save for its color. Both species are small, long-tailed, and lacking crests.

Yet, Barn swallows are more likely to be found creating their mud nests in open or semi-open landscapes, such as fields and terrains, differentiating them from the woodland-loving woodpeckers.

8. Eastern Bluebird

An Eastern Bluebird that looks like a blue Woodpecker

If you ever encounter a bird that looks like a blue woodpecker, examine it carefully, as it might be an Eastern Bluebird. Its alert posture, plump body, and small head resemble those of flickers — a kind of woodpecker.

Eastern Bluebirds are common throughout the eastern half of the United States, and they prefer forest edges and open areas near water.

On another note, you will be surprised to learn that these iconic songbirds have been designated as the state bird in both New York and Missouri.

Frequently Asked Questions

Woodpecker hiding in a tree bark

Are Some Woodpeckers Blue?

While you might sometimes spot a woodpecker that seems bluish in certain lights, notably the Red-headed woodpecker, there aren’t any actual blue woodpeckers. What you’re observing is likely a play of light on their feathers.

So, in short, no woodpecker species are authentically blue in color.

Is a Blue Jay in the Woodpecker Family?

Even though Blue Jays might appear somewhat similar to woodpeckers, they are not part of the woodpecker family. Instead, Blue Jays belong to the Corvidae clan, which is the same lineage as crows, ravens, and magpies.

What Colors Do Woodpeckers Come In?

Woodpeckers display a variety of colors, commonly seen in combinations of black, white, gold, brown, yellow, green, and bright red. Yet, one shade you won’t find on them is blue.

So, if you have seen a blue woodpecker, it is likely not a real woodpecker at all. It might be a Blue Jay, Steller’s Jay, or a Barn swallow.

Final Thoughts

Generally, the charm of the blue woodpecker has sparked intrigue and curiosity among bird enthusiasts. Yet, as explored in this article, no woodpecker sports an actual blue shade.

Instead, many other blue-colored birds, from the prominent Blue Jay to the graceful Barn swallow, can easily be confused for this non-existent blue woodpecker due to their resemblance in certain features.

Further, note that while woodpeckers can bear many tints, their overall coloration is typically a mix of blacks and reds with accents of white. Some may also display green or yellow, but blue isn’t one of them.

So the next time you think you’ve spotted a blue woodpecker, take a closer look or even consider grabbing a pair of binoculars. Chances are, you’re observing a different bird species.

If you have ever mistaken a blue-pigmented bird for a blue woodpecker, feel free to share your experience in the comments!

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