Woodpeckers are fun to watch, as long as they aren't drilling into the side of your home in their search for food or a mate. In Washington state, there are at least a dozen different types of woodpeckers that might be tapping on trees, utility poles or homes, with two that are far more common than the rest.
The northern flicker is not necessarily the most common woodpecker in Washington, but it is the most frequently seen by humans. These birds have adapted to suburban life well and can be seen searching for bugs in lawns, hammering on the side of utility poles and digging for insects on homes with wood siding. The northern flicker is a large woodpecker with a brown body, black tail and chest, a bright red mark on the face and a white spot on the rump. This woodpecker is found in all parts of the state.
Common Permanent Residents
After the northern flicker, the downy woodpecker is probably the most frequently spotted species of woodpecker in the state. It is also the only small woodpecker found in Washington, measuring around 6 inches long. The downy woodpecker is white with a black and white striped head and wings. The hairy woodpecker, also common in Washington, looks very similar to the downy, but is a medium-sized woodpecker at around 10 inches long. Both the downy and the hairy woodpeckers live in the state year-round.
Uncommon Permanent Residents
There are six species of woodpecker live in Washington year-round, but are not commonly seen or make their homes in only a small area of the state. The red-breasted sapsucker and pileated woodpecker are both generally found west of the Cascade mountains, while the white-headed, American three-toed and black-backed woodpeckers are generally found east of the Cascades. All of these woodpeckers are medium-sized, except for the pileated, which is the largest woodpecker found in the United States. The acorn woodpecker also makes a small portion of Washington state its home, but is rarely seen and is generally only found in Klickitat County, in southcentral Washington along the Oregon border.
A few woodpeckers live in Washington during the summer and then head south when the weather gets cold. The most commonly seen of these is the red-naped sapsucker, a medium-sized woodpecker that has red patches on top of the head and on the throat. Two less commonly seen summer residents include the Williamson's sapsucker and Lewis's woodpecker. These two are both medium-sized woodpeckers usually found on the east side of the Cascade mountain range that divides the state.