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Species: Woodpeckers

Protection Level
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Federally Protected Yes
State Protected Yes
VA Nuisance Species No

 

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.


Identification
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Picoides borealis
county distribution map for Picoides borealis

Downy Woodpecker
Picoides pubescens

More Photos

Picoides pubescens county distribution map for Picoides pubescens

Hairy Woodpecker
Picoides villosus

More Photos

Picoides villosus
[© Charles Warren, CMI]
county distribution map for Picoides villosus

Red-headed Woodpecker Melanerpes erythrocephalus

More Photos

Melanerpes erythrocephalus
county distribution map for Melanerpes erythrocephalus

Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus

More Photos

Melanerpes carolinus
county distribution map for Melanerpes carolinus

Pileated Woodpecker Dryocopus pileatus

More Photos

Dryocopus pileatus
[© Charles Warren, CMI]
county distribution map for Dryocopus pileatus

Northern Flicker
Colaptes auratus

More Photos

Colaptes auratus
county distribution map for Colaptes auratus

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius

Photos

 
county distribution map for Sphyrapicus varius

Other Identification sources
Cornell lab of Ornithology
 

 



Legal
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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.

Virginia Laws

In Virginia it is illegal to

It is a Federal offence to

  • possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship a Red-cockated woodpecker since it is an endangered species (Endangered Species Act)
  • possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship any woodpecker or woodpecker part since they are classified as a migratory species. (Migratory Bird Treaty Act)

 

 

Management Options
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Other Sources

Animal Damage Management, Purdue Department of Entomology

Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage-1994

Wildlife Damage Management, Controlling Woodpecker Damage

 

 

Life History
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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.

Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Red Headed Woodpecker
Red-cockaded Woodpecker

 

Disease
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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.

Histoplasmosis A lung infection caught by inhaling mold spores that grow on bird and bat droppings.