Eight different members of the woodpecker family (Picidae)
can be found in the Commonwealth of Virginia. One species, the
Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis), currently is classified
as a federal and state endangered species and occurs only in a
few restricted areas in the extreme southeastern part of the state.
The other members of the woodpecker family that occur in Virginia
include the Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), the Hairy Woodpecker
(Picoides villosus), the Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus),
the Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), the Pileated
Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), the Northern Flicker (Colaptes
auratus), and the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius).
All of these birds except the sapsucker are considered to be resident
species, which means they do not migrate from Virginia to other
distant habitats to over-winter or to engage in breeding activities.
In Virginia woodpeckers are a protected non-game species . In
addition to state non-game laws woodpeckers are also federally
protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Virginia Department
of Game and Inland Fisheries shares regulation authority over
woodpeckers with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
At no time is it legal to use lethal force on a woodpecker without
first obtaining a permit from both the Virginia Department of
Game and Inland Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In Virginia it is illegal to
- molest or destroy a woodpecker nest and/or eggs. §29.1-521.
- trap any woodpecker§29.1-530
- kill a woodpecker anytime other than during a defined hunting
- poison any animal (including woodpecker) on your property.
It is a Federal offence to
- possess, sell,
deliver, carry, transport, or ship a Red-cockated woodpecker
since it is an endangered species (Endangered
- possess, sell,
deliver, carry, transport, or ship any woodpecker or woodpecker
part since they are classified as a migratory species. (Migratory
Bird Treaty Act)
It very often is the search for food that draws our attention
to the presence of a woodpecker, where we first hear the characteristic
“rapping” sounds it makes as it chips away the bark
or exposed wood of a tree. Sometimes, though, that “rapping”
you hear comes as a woodpecker chips away hunks of wooden siding
on your home. In some cases, they may have detected the presence
of wood-boring insects or those that have invaded a decayed area
under the siding. To them, this sheathing on your home represents
just a different type of “bark” that provides cover
for the food resource it wants to get at. In other cases, the
new home you have built in the woods (and in the bird’s
territory) presents new opportunities to the woodpecker in having
new and effective drumming sites. Regardless of the reason, the
economic and psychological costs associated with this type of
damage can range from the minor, often seasonal annoyance and
paint chipping from territorial drumming to the significant physical
damage of having to replace major sections of siding and structural
timbers. Woodpeckers also may cause substantial economic hardship
for utility service providers; these birds can weaken or destroy
the support poles for electric power and telephone lines when
they excavate cavities in these structures. The quality and economic
value of standing timber stocks can be reduced by damage inflicted
by woodpeckers, though this type of damage normally is restricted
to individual trees rather than an entire stand.
More information can be found at the Virginia Fish and
Wildlife Information Service Web page.
There are many diseases that wildlife species are capable of
carrying and transferring to humans (zoonotic diseases). While
all zoonotic diseases are a serious threat to humans this website
will only address those that are a concern for Virginia residents.
A lung infection caught by inhaling mold spores that grow on bird
and bat droppings.