Male vs. Female Woodpeckers (in 22 Different Species)

Male vs female woodpeckers

The differences between male and female woodpeckers can be subtle yet fascinating. These birds, known for their striking appearances and unique behaviors, often leave observers curious about their gender distinctions.

This article will guide you in distinguishing between male and female woodpeckers across 22 different species. Dive in to explore the distinctive physical characteristics that differentiate each gender.

Male vs. Female Hairy Woodpecker

Male Hairy Woodpecker
Male Hairy Woodpecker
Female Hairy Woodpecker
Female Hairy Woodpecker

Male Hairy Woodpeckers are larger and stand out with a small red patch on their heads, giving them the distinction as one of the birds with red heads. Female Hairy Woodpeckers, being smaller, resemble their male counterparts but lack the red patch.

Male vs. Female Pileated Woodpecker

Male Pileated Woodpecker
Male Pileated Woodpecker
Female Pileated Woodpecker
Female Pileated Woodpecker

As one of the black birds with red heads on our list, male Pileated Woodpeckers boast a long red crest that stretches to their cheeks. Meanwhile, female Pileated Woodpeckers have a shorter red crest and lack the male’s red-colored cheek stripe.

Here is a video of a male and female Pileated Woodpecker visiting a feeder:

Male and Female Pileated Woodpecker visit again!

Male vs. Female Acorn Woodpecker

Male Acorn Woodpecker
Male Acorn Woodpecker
Female Acorn Woodpecker
Female Acorn Woodpecker

Male Acorn Woodpeckers have a larger red cap that connects with their face’s white area. In contrast to males, female Acorn Woodpeckers have a smaller red cap that is encircled by black.

Male vs. Female American Three-Toed Woodpecker

Male American Three toed Woodpecker
Male American Three-toed Woodpecker
Female American Three toed Woodpecker
Female American Three-toed Woodpecker

Male American Three-toed Woodpeckers flaunt a bright yellow patch atop its head. On the flip side, female American Three-toed Woodpeckers sport a black-patched forehead.

Male vs. Female Arizona Woodpecker

Male Arizona Woodpecker
Male Arizona Woodpecker
Female Arizona Woodpecker
Female Arizona Woodpecker

Male Arizona Woodpeckers have a small red patch on the occiput and darker, deep brown feathers. Contrarily, female Arizona Woodpeckers are paler with light brown plumage and lack the male woodpecker’s red patch.

Male vs. Female Black-Backed Woodpecker

Male Black baked Woodpecker
Male Black-Baked Woodpecker
Female Black backed Woodpecker
Female Black-Backed Woodpecker

Male Black-backed Woodpeckers display a distinctive yellow crown patch. While juvenile female Black-backed Woodpeckers have a similar yellow patch, it fades as they mature, leaving them with a solid black crown.

Male vs. Female Downy Woodpecker

Male Downy Woodpecker
Male Downy Woodpecker
Female Downy Woodpecker
Female Downy Woodpecker

Male Downy Woodpeckers are marked by a red patch at the back of its head. Downy female woodpeckers, in contrast, are adorned in only black and white, without the red speck, marking them in our list of black and white birds.

Male vs. Female Gila Woodpecker

Male Gila Woodpecker
Male Gila Woodpecker
Female Gila Woodpecker
Female Gila Woodpecker

Male Gila Woodpeckers are identifiable by their red crown patches. Female Gila Woodpeckers, however, do not maintain this red-pigmented head patch.

Male vs. Female Gilded Flicker

Male Gilded Flicker
Male Gilded Flicker
Female Gilded Flicker
Female Gilded Flicker

Male Gilded Flickers are distinguished by a red mustache stripe. Female Gilded Flickers, weighing less and being slightly smaller, lack this distinct red mustache-like mark.

Male vs. Female Golden-Fronted Woodpecker

Male Golden Fronted Woodpecker
Male Golden-Fronted Woodpecker
Female Golden Fronted Woodpecker
Female Golden-Fronted Woodpecker

Male Golden-fronted Woodpeckers display golden orange napes, yellow nasal tufts, and red-colored foreheads. While females also have golden-pigmented napes and nasal tufts, it is noticeable that they lack the red crown.

Male vs. Female Ladder-Backed Woodpecker

Male Ladder Backed Woodpecker
Male Ladder-Backed Woodpecker
Female Ladder Backed Woodpecker
Female Ladder-Backed Woodpecker

Male Ladder-backed Woodpeckers flaunt a large, red stripe on top of their heads. On the other hand, female Ladder-backed Woodpeckers possess a big, black stripe atop their domes instead of red.

Both male and female Ladder-backed Woodpeckers are also proud to be part of the group of small black and white birds.

Male vs. Female Lewis’s Woodpecker

Male Lewiss Woodpecker
Male Lewis’s Woodpecker
Female Lewiss Woodpecker
Female Lewis’s Woodpecker

Based on the photos above, it is apparent that male Lewis’s Woodpeckers boast a deeper red coloring and is generally bigger than their female counterpart.

Male vs. Female Northern Flicker

Male Northern Flicker
Male Northern Flicker
Female Northern Flicker
Female Northern Flicker

Male Northern Flickers typically sport a red mustache, while females retain pale brown ones.

Male vs. Female Nuttall’s Woodpecker

Male Nuttalls Woodpecker
Male Nuttall’s Woodpecker
Female Nuttalls Woodpecker
Female Nuttall’s Woodpecker

Male Nuttall’s Woodpeckers exhibit a streaked forehead and a dominant red patch on the rear of the head. Female Nuttall’s Woodpeckers, on the flip side, also display a patterned head but feature a black patch instead of red.

Male vs. Female Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Male Red Bellied Woodpecker
Male Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Female Red Bellied Woodpecker
Female Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Male Red-bellied Woodpeckers bear a bright red cap extending from the forehead to the neck base. They are also popular as one of the birds with orange chests. Conversely, female Red-bellied Woodpeckers have red feathers only on their necks as well as the base of their beaks.

Male vs. Female Red-Breasted Sapsucker

Male Red Breasted Sapsucker
Male Red-Breasted Sapsucker
Female Red Breasted Sapsucker
Female Red-Breasted Sapsucker

Male Red-breasted Sapsuckers have heads, chests, and necks that are predominantly red. Meanwhile, female Red-breasted Sapsuckers have a red head, breast, and neck but with noticeable black streaks.

Male vs. Female Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

Male Red Cockaded Woodpecker
Male Red-Cockaded Woodpecker
(Image Credit)
Female Red Cockaded Woodpecker
Female Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

Red-cockaded male woodpeckers display a red spot of feathers behind the eye, known as a cockade. However, from the image shown above, it is evident that females lack this particular red tint on the side of their heads.

Male vs. Female Red-Headed Woodpecker

Male Red Headed Woodpecker
Male Red-Headed Woodpecker
Female Red Headed Woodpecker
Female Red-Headed Woodpecker

Male Red-headed Woodpeckers have a crimson head with bluish-black wings and tails, matching females. Yet, it should be noted that females are often lighter than their male peers.

Male vs. Female Red-Naped Sapsucker

Male Red Naped Sapsucker
Male Red-Naped Sapsucker
Female Red Naped Sapsucker
Female Red-Naped Sapsucker

Male Red-naped Sapsuckers maintain a completely red-pigmented chin, nape, and throat. Opposite to this, female Red-naped Sapsuckers show less red on their throats and napes compared to males.

Male vs. Female White-Headed Woodpecker

Male White Headed Woodpecker
Male White-Headed Woodpecker
Female White Headed Woodpecker
Female White-Headed Woodpecker

Male White-headed Woodpeckers display a red smudge on the top of their crowns. However, this distinct red streak is absent in their female counterparts.

Male vs. Female Williamson’s Sapsucker

Male Williamsons Sapsucker
Male Williamson’s Sapsucker
Female Williamsons Sapsucker
Female Williamson’s Sapsucker

Male Williamson’s Sapsuckers have predominantly black feathers, yellow-patched bellies, and red-pigmented throats. On the other hand, female Williamson’s Sapsuckers feature a brown dome, barred black-and-white patterns, and a distinct ivory-colored belly patch.

Male vs. Female Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Male Yellow Bellied Sapsucker
Male Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
Female Yellow Bellied Sapsucker
Female Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Male Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers boast red caps and red throats. Female Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, on the contrary, possess a red cap, but their throat is white.

Frequently Asked Questions

A couple of Woodpeckers

How Can You Tell If a Woodpecker Is Male or Female?

Typically, male woodpeckers have more red on their head and face. For instance, in species like Hairy, Downy, and White-headed Woodpeckers, males sport scarlet markings, while females do not.

Do Female Woodpeckers Have Red Heads?

Yes, a few species of woodpeckers have red-headed females. Examples include the Red-headed Woodpecker, the Red-breasted Woodpecker, and the Pileated Woodpecker.

Do Female Woodpeckers Make Holes?

Yes. In fact, during a summer field study, I observed a female woodpecker diligently crafting a hole in a pine tree. Her precision was remarkable. It became evident that she was preparing a nesting site.

Later, my mentor explained that both male and female woodpeckers make holes, whether it be to feed their young, roost in trees, or build nests.

If you have any more to share about interesting physical differences between male and female woodpeckers, please let us know in the comments section below!

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