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Missouri Woodpeckers: 7 Species To Seek On Your Next Watch

Last Updated on: July 9, 2024

Are you planning your first trip to see the woodpeckers in Missouri?

Will it be your first experience with woodpeckers, or have you seen several types of woodpeckers in North America?


Missouri has seven woodpecker species, almost half of the types in the United States. The seven are the northern flicker, downy, hairy, red-headed, red-bellied, pileated, and the yellow-bellied sapsucker.

As we tell you where to see Missouri woodpeckers, we will explain their plumage differences, food, and whether these woodpeckers visit backyard bird feeders. Read on!

7 Adorable Peckers In Missouri: Facts About Their Habitat, Diet & Plumage

 1. Red-bellied Woodpecker 

Red-bellied Woodpecker 

It is on top of my list of the most colorful birds to see because of its stunning plumage as a red-bellied woodpecker has a red cap and stripes on its back. A male bird has a red patch on the back of its head, while a female has a small patch on the nape. 

Interestingly, the name suggests a red belly, yet these birds have almost no red feathers on the underside of red-bellied woodpeckers. 

You’re likely to see this resident bird in the woodlands of Missouri. Luckily, these birds also come to backyard feeders to eat sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet; thus, no need to go too far to see red-bellied woodpeckers.

As you wait for them in your backyard, know these woodpeckers are smaller than the American robin because their body length is about 9.4 inches. 

2. Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

A red-headed woodpecker is smaller than a red-bellied woodpecker by a few inches because its body length is between 7.5 and 9.1 inches. Another difference between it and the one we looked at above is that this one has bright red head feathers, and instead of black and white stripes, it has black and white wings. Additionally, its underside is white. However, juvenile red-headed woodpeckers have gray-brown feathers. 

Red-headed woodpeckers prefer open woodlands without understory, swamps, and pine savanna. The population of these woodpeckers is declining as such habitats are rare.

However, Missouri is home to enough red-headed woodpeckers for you to come across at least one. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the red-headed woodpecker carry nuts and seeds from your backyard feeders or a nearby forest to hide them in tree crevices. That’s how it stores food for later.

You’ll see nesting red-headed woodpeckers in Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area on the Missouri River. 

This conservation area has grasslands and riparian woodlands that host nearly 300 avian species. If you’ve already visited this area, you can also tour Mingo National Wildlife Refuge on a previous channel of the Mississippi River. 

 3. Downy Woodpecker 

Downy Woodpecker 

It’s about half the size of the red-bellied woodpecker because a downy woodpecker is between 5.5 and 6.7 inches long. Unlike the two species of woodpeckers above, downy woodpeckers have a red patch on their crown and black and white stripes across the face. However, they still have standard black, white and red plumage colors of woodpeckers. 

Since downy woodpeckers are resident species across North America, Missouri is not left behind. You can look for these birds in open woodlands, listen for their high-pitched call as you walk through young deciduous forests, or wait for them in your backyard bird feeders. 

4. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

It might be a bit disappointing if you’re expecting to see a bird with a bright yellow belly because this one has a yellowish underside. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers have bold red marks on their foreheads and under the bills.

Since they are migrant birds, they inhabit different parts of Missouri in different seasons. For example, you’ll find the yellow-bellied sapsucker in the southern or middle parts before they migrate north during the breeding season. 

It prefers open forests in winter and deciduous forests the rest of the time. There are yellow-bellied sapsuckers around if you walk through a forest and notice a row of sap wells that flow down a tree, mixing with insect larvae.

5. Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

A hairy woodpecker is about the size of an American robin because its body can grow between 7.1 and 10.2 inches. Since it’s a resident bird in Missouri and has the same plumage as a downy woodpecker, you need other identification ways to tell them apart. Consequently, here’s what you can do if unsure whether you’re looking at hairy woodpeckers. 

First, look at the bill. If one of the two birds you are confusing has a longer one, it is a hairy woodpecker. Secondly, if one of the two birds is smaller, you have met a downy woodpecker.  

Hairy woodpeckers prefer the main branches of a tree even when they come to your backyard. They live in mature forests and visit bird feeders for suet and sunflower seeds.

6. Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

A northern flicker is the largest of all the birds above because its body is between 11 and 12.2 inches long. It has a grayish body with black spots. 

The northern flickers in the western region have red shafts, while the eastern ones have yellow feathers on the tail and wings. Since Missouri is in central North America, see whether you will see the eastern or western birds.

The northern flicker forages on the ground looking for beetles and ants; therefore, as you explore the open woodlands and forest edges in Missouri, remember to check for birds in the understory.

7. Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Lastly, we have the largest woodpecker in this state, as the pileated woodpecker length from bill to tail is between 15.8 and 19.3 inches. If a pileated woodpecker is in the company of other large birds and you miss its size, you notice its long bill and red crest.

Unlike other woodpeckers with spots or bright plumage, the pileated woodpecker has an almost black body with white stripes on its face and white feathers on its underwings. Pileated woodpeckers love mature forests and are resident birds in Missouri. 

They drill rectangular holes in dead trees to trap carpenter ants and insect larvae. This bird inhabits the eastern and northwestern regions of North America.

One of the places you will see this species is August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area. It also breeds in Roaring River State Park.

How To Attract Woodpeckers In Your Backyard

Woodpeckers are colorful birds. To attract more of them to your backyard:

  • Refill bird feeders with suet or black oil sunflower seeds. 
  • Leave a few dead trees in your backyard because birds like the pileated woodpeckers love to drill dying trees.
  • Install nest boxes.

Roaming Tip: How about checking other woodpeckers in this next state and telling us what you think? Read our post — Woodpeckers In North Carolina.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are Pileated woodpeckers rare?

They are rare because you can only see them in some parts of North America, excluding most of the west except northern California, western Oregon, Washington, and Canada. There are no pileated woodpeckers in northwestern Missouri.

Is it a good idea to have woodpeckers in your yard?

Woodpeckers are interesting avians that entertain you with their drumming. They are also colorful, flaunting bold black, white or red plumage. 

When most species of woodpeckers come to your backyard, they eliminate ants, beetles, and other insects that need pesticides. But, they do this at the expense of your trees because if you have dead or decaying trees, they will leave a row of holes in them.

How many woodpeckers are in Missouri?

 As we discussed above, there are seven woodpeckers in Missouri. Northern flickers, downy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, and four more species are on the list.


Missouri has over 400 species of birds, and the woodpecker is one of them. Some homeowners don’t like them because of their drumming. But, woodpeckers eat insects that may destroy wood and trees. Additionally, the holes they leave behind house cavity nesters. 

Therefore, there’s every reason to see woodpeckers in Missouri, whether you’ll do so by attracting woodpeckers to your backyard or touring pine forests looking for the seven species.

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