Missouri Woodpeckers

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Published on: Nov. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 4, 2010

or feeding sites. Displays used by woodpeckers involve some kind of motion of the head, whether it be bowing, bobbing, turning side to side or back and forth or pointing their bill up. It isn't uncommon to see their head feathers ruffled or their tail feathers and wings partially spread, making them appear larger. Many species of woodpeckers showing off for prospective mates flutter or float in flight.

There's a fine line between love and hate, as they use minor variations of their aggressive displays to court would-be mates. Initial encounters between males and females during the breeding season may appear hostile, but eventually the sexes become more tolerant of each other.

Nothing breaks the stillness of an Ozark forest like the raucous laughlike call of the pileated woodpecker. And who can resist the adorable little downy woodpecker that makes regular appearances at backyard bird feeders? Encountering a mixed flock of woodpeckers and other birds busily foraging on leafless trees never fails to break up the monotony of a walk in the winter woods. Whether you see woodpeckers in small flocks, singly or in pairs, you'll be delighted by the wide variety of woodpeckers in Missouri throughout the seasons.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

Hard-nosed facts

  • Common statewide
  • 9 inches in length
  • eats nuts, fruits, tree sap and insects
  • lives in open woodlands with snags and hollow trees
  • nests in cavities excavated in snags; also uses poles and birdhouses
  • female and male incubate four to five eggs for 12 to 14 days
  • young fledge in 24 to 27 days
  • call is a loud "chip-chip" or "churr" in a series or single notes
  • drums (pecks) in bursts as long as one second

Wood you care to know?

  • Red-bellied woodpeckers have a black-and-white barring pattern on their back and wings.
  • Males have a red patch on the back of their neck that extends over the top of their head.
  • Females lack red on the top of their heads but have a red patch on the back of their neck.
  • Red color on their belly is faint.
  • They breed in urban areas as well as heavily forested regions.
  • Like several other woodpecker species, they hoard nuts, fruits and insects in their cavities and defend them within a territory. The fruits and insects are later fed to their young.
  • They commonly visit feeders.

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

Hard-nosed facts

  • common

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