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Home > Other Critters > Woodpeckers


There are nine species of woodpeckers found in Maine: Red-headed (Melanerpes erythrocephalus), Red-bellied (Melanerpes carolinus), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius), Downy (Picoides pubescens), Hairy (Picoides villosus), Three-toed (Picoides tridactylus), Black-backed (Picoides arcticus), Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) and Pileated (Dryocopus pileatus).

Woodpeckers play a vital role in helping to control insect pests. Woodpeckers can be considered pests when they use buildings in their search of food, or as a surface for territorial/social drumming, or for nest construction. Such activities not only create disturbing noises, but, more significantly, may cause structural damage.

downy woodpecker pileated woodpecker yellow-bellied sapsucker
The downy woodpecker is the smallest in Maine, up to 7 inches long. Adult males have a red plumage "spot" on top-back of head. Found in or near woods, also visiting suet and sunflower feeders. The pileated woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in Maine, up to 16 inches long. It has a distinctive red crest. The yellow-bellied sapsucker get about 9 inches long. Adult males have a red throat with a black border, female has a white throat; both have a red stripe on top of the head.
red-bellied woodpecker pileated damage to pine tree yellow-bellied sapsucker damage
The red-bellied woodpecker is medium-sized, about 9 inches, with a bright red nape, brownish body and barred back and wings. Usually seen at suet and sunflower seed feeders. Pileated woodpeckers are usually found in mature forests. Their favorite food is carpenter ants–they excavate oblong holes in trees looking for them. The yellow-bellied sapsucker drills hole sin the bark of trees to allow the sap to run. They return to drink the sap and eat insects that are attracted. Over time this may weaken the tree and provide access for harmful insects or plant diseases.

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[Photos, left to right: David Cappaert, Michigan State University,; USDA Forest Service - North Central Research Station Archive, USDA Forest Service,; James Solomon, USDA Forest Service,; Johnny N. Dell,; Joseph O'Brien, USDA Forest Service,; Randy Cyr, Greentree,]

It is the policy of the State of Maine to minimize reliance on pesticides. The Maine Department of Agriculture and the Maine IPM Council encourage everyone to practice integrated pest management and to use pesticides only as a last resort. The mention of pesticides in the fact sheets linked to these pages does not imply an endorsement of any product. Be sure that any product used is currently registered and follow all label directions.