What’s that?

We’ve all heard them in the trees pecking away. Sometimes wondering what that sound is only to look outside and discover that it is a woodpecker!

How many woodpeckers are there?

Have you ever wondered how many species of woodpeckers there are? 239! 15 of which live in Arizona! Furthermore, when we think of a woodpecker, we usually think of the color red; all of these woodpeckers have a spot of red somewhere on their bodies. 

Of the 15 species of woodpeckers found in Arizona, there is the Acorn Woodpecker -which is the smallest woodpecker species found in all of North America. The Northern Flicker – interestingly, these woodpeckers hunt for their food on the ground rather than on trees. This makes them an anomaly in the woodpecker world. And the Ladder-Back Woodpecker -these woodpeckers love eating peanut butter; another anomaly or just good taste?

Woodpecker in the Prescott National Forest

What kind of environment do they prefer?

Even though woodpeckers love being in the forest they can also be found in the desert where some make the Saguaro their home. Some woodpeckers like to venture into backyards that have dead trees and other hard-to-resist attractions.

Woodpeckers love dead trees for many reasons. For example, breeding pairs of Ladder-Back woodpeckers like to nest in the cavities of dead trees. All woodpeckers prefer the wood of a dead or dying tree rather than that of a live and healthy tree simply because the wood is easier to drill into. Nonetheless, they will still drill into live and healthy trees. In addition, a dead or dying tree usually means there will be a larger-than-normal amount of bugs and larvae to feed on.

What is a woodpecker’s diet?

Conversely, woodpeckers will feed at hummingbird feeders, which at first, seems counterintuitive to us but they have extremely long tongues. Woodpeckers are omnivores. Their diet includes bugs, tree sap, fruits, seeds, flower nectar, and hummingbird food.


A woodpecker’s tongue is so long that it wraps around its skull which is how they can consume nectar.

Woodpeckers have extra muscles in their skull to protect their brain while they drill. Therefore, if you are wondering, no they do not get headaches. 

Woodpeckers have a bone in their skull called the hyoid bone (we have one too). The hyoid bone is divided into two parts and wraps around the entire skull enabling it to absorb high levels of shock that work together with the muscles. This structure enables them to do what they do: drilling holes in tree trunks worldwide (except for Antarctica and Australia funny enough).

Woodpecker anatomy

Other facts about woodpeckers:

  • A group of woodpeckers is called a “descent”.
  • Just like the Acron woodpecker is the smallest in North America, the Pileated Woodpecker is the largest.
  • Every woodpecker has feet that are adaptive to climbing.
  • All woodpeckers are only active during the day.
  • Woodpeckers peck 12,000 times per day and their beaks never wear down.

This blog post only scratches the surface of the many intricacies of the woodpecker. Next time you are out hiking in the forest or sitting in your backyard, try to see if you can spot or rather, hear a woodpecker nearby!

Wonder, Explore, Discover!

To learn more woodpecker facts visit birdfeederhub.com/facts-about-woodpeckers

To attend one of our nature classes visit highlandscenter.org/adult-programs/


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