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Woodpecker In TN: 7 Types Of Woodpeckers In Tennessee To Look Out For

Tennessee has a unique geographic advantage. When you take a look at the map, you will notice its length is much greater than its breadth. Due to the same graphic diversity which it possesses is also much higher. You will notice areas with higher as well as lower elevations and with different climates as well.

Due to being rich in geographic diversity, it is home to rivers, dams, and flood lands. It does not come as a surprise, therefore it is home to more than 400 species. Among these 400 species are various types of woodpeckers which call Tennessee their home.

There are essentially 7 species of woodpeckers in Tennessee. We will cover them below and also help you understand how you can spot them.

1. Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

Length: 7.5″ to 9″
Weight: 2 to 3 oz.
Wingspan: 16.5″

As the name itself suggests, this species of woodpecker features a red-head. Due to the bright red colors, it is tough to miss. When you look at its other features, it consists of white and grey feathers on its body. With this distinct combination, it is easy to spot this woodpecker species.

You will mostly notice this woodpecker in the Woodlands. The breeding pattern is pretty distinct as well. They will often play hide and seek with their mate during the breeding season using the tree stumps. This is the courting period.

Often, when you spot this species of woodpecker, they will be in pairs. That is because once they breed, they remain together for a long time. They have maximum risk from peregrine falcons, raccoons. This is where residing in pairs certainly helps them.

Expert Tip: Both the male as well as female protect their nest vigorously. Also, they are territorial, which means that they can spot the danger from a distance.

The good news is that they are in the state all through the year, and therefore it is effortless to spot them. If you want to spot them, it is good to head over to the eastern part of Tennessee, as they are common in that part.

Thus, if you’re looking for woodpeckers in Tennessee that are easy to spot, you should certainly look out for this species.

2. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker

Length: 9.4″
Weight: 2 to 3 oz.
Wingspan: 13″ to 16″

While these woodpeckers also sport the red color but how they do so is different. They consist of pale red bellies. Apart from that, the feathers on the crown of their head are bright red. The feathers on the body have a striped pattern of black and white. These two are present in the woodland areas and often in the woodland suburbs as well.

At the commencement of the breeding season, males will often pick the spot for the nest and start excavating. They usually opt for trunk or dead trees for nesting. The usual action which they perform for initiating the breeding is to tap on the tree trunks.

This will attract the females, and the one which finds the male attractive will tap back on the trunk. They often use the same tree for building their nest over and over again. That is why it is not uncommon for them to stay on the same tree for years together. This is another species of woodpeckers in Tennessee that stays throughout the year.

That is why spotting them is comparatively easy. However, they are the most active during the breeding season, and therefore, spotting them is easier.

If you are to make a list of the most abundantly found woodpeckers in Tennessee, this species will certainly be on that list. Most sightings by birdwatchers have been in the southern part of Tennessee.

3. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Length: 7.1″ to 8.5″
Weight: 1.5 to 2 oz.
Wingspan: 13.5″ to 16″

Once again, the best way to identify this woodpecker is by looking at the belly color. As the name itself suggests, the belly consists of yellow color, and the feathers are black and white in pattern. The crown of these birds is red. The pale yellow color on their bellies is the reason why they are named so.

Usually speaking, they are much smaller than some of the other types of woodpeckers that you will come across. Also, they have a stout faces.

Expert Tip: This species has migratory tendencies. They often change their nest from time to time. That is why not always stick to the same area.

During the courtship and the breeding season, they are often aggressive to birds of the same sex. This is to discourage the female from getting attracted to them. Once a female finds a male attractive, they will pair with the same male for years together. They usually are monogamous.

Even though they are present throughout the state, but their migratory behavior ensures that, at times, they might drift away to other adjacent states as well. Usually speaking, they spend their nonbreeding season in the state, which overlaps the winter season.

If you’re interested in spotting them, it makes sense to head over to the western part of the state. Their colors are quite distinctive and are small in size. That is why spotting them in Tennessee is not a problem.

4. Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Length: 5.5″ to 7″
Weight: 0.7 to 1 oz.
Wingspan: 9.8″ to 12″

Downy woodpecker also has a distinct appearance as compared to other woodpeckers in Tennessee. They have a red patch behind your head. The bellies are also pale-colored. When you look at the wings as well as the back, they are comparatively darker. These traits once again make it easy for you to spot this woodpecker in Tennessee.

Their usual area of habitat is the Woodlands. You can easily spot them next to rivers and streams. When you notice their length and weight, you will realize that these are comparatively smaller when it comes to woodpecker standards.

Their breeding season coincides with the spring months. The males will fly in between the trees during the breeding season and flutter their wings to attract the females. Their behavior is almost similar to those of butterflies. When the female selects the male, they will stick together. They use the trees or dead parts of trees for nesting.

You can easily spot them throughout the year in Tennessee. They are permanent residents of the state. Not only that, they can be found all over the state. You need not travel to a particular part to spot them. However, if you map the area where they have been sighted most commonly, it is the southwest part of the state.

To look at them, it is a good idea to search for them during the spring months. During these months, they are the most active, and therefore it is easy to spot them.

5. Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Length: 15″ to 20″
Weight: 8.8 to 12.5 oz
Wingspan: 26″ to 30″

The overwhelming black color is what sets this species of woodpecker apart. They consist of black feathers on the wings, back, as well as belly. Coniferous woodlands are the areas that they call home. They usually prefer the mature woodlands rather than the budding ones.

While some other species we have highlighted above are small compared to other woodpeckers, this is a larger one. They search for dead trees or trunks to build their nest. Their nests are often rectangular. That is why it is easy to spot their nests when you’re in the Woodlands.

The monogamous nature means that once they mate, they will remain with the same for their lifetimes. The only exception to this is when their mate dies. Since they are abundant in number in the state, quite a few of them change partners every year. They only allow another mate in that territory when their older one dies.

Expert Tip: You can easily find them throughout the year in Tennessee. Since their natural habitat is woodlands, and woodlands are available in plenty in Tennessee, you can find them throughout the state.

Similar to other species, they too are most active during the breeding season. That is why it is the best time to spot them. If you want to travel to the part with maximum sightings of this species, it is the West of Tennessee.

6. Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Length: 7.1″ to 10″
Weight: 1.5 to 3.5 oz.
Wingspan: 13″ to 16″

Hairy woodpeckers have an average size. However, they have a distinct feature that makes it easy for you to spot them. They have an orange-red patch on the top of their head. These feathers are easily visible from a distance. Not only that, their wings, as well as backs, are pretty dark. The bellies comparatively are pale.

All these features make it easy to spot this type of woodpecker. Similar to many other species of woodpeckers in Tennessee they choose cavities in the dead trees to build their nest. However, they do not stick to the same tree every year. Each year, they will try to find new territory to create such a cavity.

Usually speaking, they are found in woodlands. At a time, they can nest up to 6 eggs. To compete with one another for the female’s attention, they often get aggressive with the other males of their same species. Their cries are usually pretty shrill warning the other males to stay away and avoid a conflict.

While their courtship traits are different compared to other woodpecker species, there is not much research done regarding the same. They remain in the State of Tennessee throughout the year. Not only that, they are found over the entire state and that is why spotting them is not going to be an issue.

Their population is slowly but consistently growing all across the United States. They are so easy to spot in Tennessee because they are found in the largest number in Tennessee in the entire United States. If you’re looking for a particular region where you can spot them, it is southwest Tennessee.

The characteristic behavior as well as look of these woodpeckers makes them one of the easiest to spot.

7. Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Length: 16″ to 19.5″
Weight: 9″ to 12.5 oz.
Wingspan: 26.5″ to 30″

Northern Flicker is one of the largest species of woodpeckers in Tennessee. They consist of spotted bellies that are not visible from a distance. On their tail, as well as on their face, you will notice patches of red feathers. If you have gone through the description of the above woodpeckers, you will notice that all of these traits are unique.

Therefore, the northern flicker woodpecker is easy to spot. The best thing about these woodpeckers is that you can easily spot them in suburbs and city parks. They prefer the densely wooded areas rather than the sparse ones.

Also, most of the time, they forage around for food. Usually, the other species of woodpeckers do not do so. That is why, this species is often found in parks and suburbs, where such food can be found in plenty.

Expert Tip: They have a unique ritual when it comes to mating. They take part in a fencing duel, 2 males will duel with each other to attract a female. During this duel, they will also emit a sound to attract the female.

They often will stick to the same cavity as their nest for years together. However, whether they are monogamous or not, not much data is available to conclude the same.

Northern flicker woodpeckers cannot only be found in Tennessee but also all over the country. That is why they are one of the most common species of woodpeckers that you can come across. While spotting them all year round is possible, but since they are most active during the breeding season, it is easy to spot them at that point in time.

If you’re in Tennessee and want to spot them, the maximum probability of spotting them is in the southwestern part of the state. The large size and distinctive behavioral traits make it easy to spot the northern flicker woodpecker.


Essentially, there are 7 species of woodpeckers in Tennessee Our guide above not only states them but how you can spot them and their distinctive traits. In case you have an inquiry regarding any of these woodpeckers or want to share your own experience of spotting them, do comment below and let us know.

About Grace Hocker

Hi, my name is Grace and I am a pet lover. Ever since 5 years old, I've owned some sort of pet from Bearded Dragons to Rabbits. I have dedicated my life to helping pets, and am here to help you get the best for your pet!