Interested in reading up about woodpeckers in East Tennessee? If yes, then birders in the Volunteer State will love reading this feature!

The American state of Tennessee has 423 distinct bird species officially. Divided into three Grand Divisions, its east is a mountainous region home to a variety of birds.

When birding in East Tennessee, one can’t miss out on the woodpeckers. If you’re lucky, you can spot seven different types of woodpeckers busily tapping away at trees. The species enjoy spending time near residential areas, too, so you’ll likely see them near your home.

Luckily, you’ve got us to rely on to learn all about how to identify the various kinds of Tenessee woodpeckers. Scroll on down and stick with us as we break down all there is to the peckerwood species of birds!

Different Kinds Of Woodpeckers In East Tennessee

Out of the seven different kinds of woodpeckers, 6 are permanent residents of the Volunteer State. But that’s not all that’s unique about the peckerwood species in the area. There’s a lot that makes the woodpeckers in East Tennessee pretty special, but we’ve divided this section into seven different headings to make things easier for our fellow readers. Ready?

1. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

We like to start strong, and that’s why the first species on our list is the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. These little guys (and gals) are the adventurous type and like taking trips to the north in certain parts of the year.

With bright red foreheads, sapsuckers have a typical black and white plumage. You can tell the males and females of this species apart thanks to the different colored stripes on their throats. Females have a white band around their neck, whereas males have a red bar. The underbodies of this species are a mixture of white and yellow hues.

 different kinds of woodpeckers

Sapsuckers are very meticulous with their rows of sap holes. Unlike other types of woodpeckers, their diet primarily consists of tree sap. Though, when drilling holes, they’ve been known to avail the opportunity of snacking on insects and cambium (a layer inside the wood). Depending on the time of the year, they may even feed on other foods, such as fruits and nuts.

You won’t see sapsuckers in Tennessee all year round. During the breeding season, Sapsuckers journey to the northern areas, such as Canada, and they travel back to their native land in East Tennesse during the start of winters.

2. Red-Bellied Woodpecker

We grant you that ornithologists aren’t the most creative when it comes to naming avian species – but don’t the simplicity of their names put you off Red-bellied woodpeckers.

To begin with, their name can be a little confusing because the brightest spot of red feathers on this species is right atop their heads. That’s not to say they don’t have red hues around their bellies – but the color isn’t quite as bright on their lower bodies. The rest of them, wings, tails, and backs, are covered in a barred pattern of black and white.

The Red-bellied woodpeckers can be pretty noisy. Along with having various calls, they even drum by tapping on wood to attract mates. Look for them in Tennessee’s woodlands as well as orchards and groves.

This species is omnivorous. Besides arthropods, they also eat fruits, nuts, and seeds. Though they feed on insects like fellow woodpeckers, they don’t drill the wood. Instead, they like to peel the bark off to reach their meal.

3, Red-Headed Woodpecker

Not to be confused with the species discussed right above, Red-Headed Woodpeckers are quite attractive in appearance. They’re tri-colored beauties – with hues of reds, whites, and black.

Their heads are a bright shade of red, with ebony patches on their tails, backs, and upper wings. The rest of their bodies are pure white. Strangely enough, their lower back and wings have a white band that almost makes it look like they have a face painted on their backs.

 types of woodpeckers

Red-headed woodpeckers are omnivores. Though almost two-thirds of their diet is plants, they fly to eat insects mid-air as well. They also forage by hammering trees and even store excess food for the winter. They are less common than some other woodpeckers in East Tennessee.

4. Downy Woodpecker (The Smallest Of The Woodpeckers Species In East Tennessee)

Downy woodpeckers are pretty common in East Tennessee. These birdies are also the smallest species of woodpeckers found in North America.

Similar to other woodpeckers, downy peckerwoods are primarily black and white in color. Their wings and heads, though black, have white stripes and spots. However, their undersides can range from white to off-white. You can tell males and females apart as the former sport a small red patch on their heads.

Other than insects, especially the European corn borer moth, the Downy woodpecker eats seeds and berries.

5. Hairy Woodpecker

A lookalike of Downy peckerwood species is the Hairy Woodpecker. It is medium-sized in comparison to the tiny stature of the Downy woodpecker. Besides the difference in size, the Hairy woodpecker has a larger bill.

However, as far as color and markings are concerned, Hairy woodpeckers have black and white checkering on their bodies similar to their smaller counterparts. Additionally, the males of the species sport red patches on their heads.

 Tenessee woodpeckers

Another similarity is the diet of the two species. Hairy woodpeckers are also natural predators of the corn borer moth, and they mainly feed on insects and their larvae. You can find these woodpeckers in all sorts of forests with tall trees. You may even spot it hammering away in riverside groves and swamps.

6. Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is the second largest species of woodpecker in the United States. Its name comes from a Latin word meaning ‘capped’ and is thanks to the almost triangular shape of bright red feathers atop its head.

For the most part, Pileated woodpeckers are black, with white stripes running down the side of their neck. Their wings have a white hue underneath that is visible mid-flight. You’ll notice a stripe reaching from the bill to the throat in adult birds that are colored red in males and black in females.

When foraging for ants, Pileated woodpeckers create a distinct rectangular-shaped hole in the wood. You can track them by keeping an eye out for such gaps. They can be found near fallen trees or even rotting logs.

Pileated woodpeckers most often feast on insects, particularly the carpenter ants. However, they do enjoy fruits, nuts, and berries as well.
For breeding and nesting, this species prefers heavily wooded areas. In some instances, they nest in smaller woodlands, so long as some tall trees are around.

7. Northern Flicker Woodpecker

The last of the woodpeckers in East Tennessee is the Northern flicker. You’ll find Northern Flickers to be the most unique in appearance. Unlike other woodpeckers, their feathers are mainly gray-brown. Their backs and wings display the typical black-barred pattern.

Interestingly, their males have a mustache-like stripe near the beak, and it’ll either be black or red. As with other woodpeckers, you can see this species in East Tennessee throughout the year. However, as they are ‘ground feeders,’ you’ll mostly find flickers preying on ants in the dirt and fields.

Read more about Birds Native To Wisconsin And Their Identification


If you’re on the lookout for woodpeckers, East Tennessee won’t let you down. Out of the many varieties of this avian species in East Tennessee – many are visible almost the whole year-round. Just make sure you don’t go looking for the Yellow Sapsuckers during summers or the breeding season, and you’ll do just fine!

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