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Woodpeckers In Nh

Woodpeckers in New Hampshire: A Fascinating Look into Their Habitat and Behavior

Woodpeckers are a unique and captivating group of birds known for their distinctive behavior and drumming sounds. In the state of New Hampshire, these birds play a vital role in the ecosystem and offer birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts a delightful experience. This article explores the various species of woodpeckers found in New Hampshire, their habitat preferences, feeding habits, and the importance of their presence in the region.

The Woodpecker Species of New Hampshire

New Hampshire is home to several species of woodpeckers, each with its own characteristics and adaptations. Some of the most common woodpecker species found in the state include:

  • Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens): The smallest woodpecker in North America, the Downy Woodpecker is easily recognizable by its black and white plumage and small size.
  • Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus): Similar in appearance to the Downy Woodpecker, the Hairy Woodpecker is slightly larger and has a longer bill.
  • Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus): The largest woodpecker in New Hampshire, the Pileated Woodpecker is known for its striking red crest and powerful drumming sounds.
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus): Despite its name, the Red-bellied Woodpecker has only a faint red tinge on its belly. It is more commonly recognized by its zebra-like black and white back pattern.
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius): This migratory woodpecker has a unique feeding habit of drilling rows of small holes in tree trunks to feed on sap.

Habitat Preferences

Woodpeckers in New Hampshire can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, and even suburban areas with mature trees. They are particularly attracted to areas with a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees, as these provide a diverse food source and nesting opportunities.

Dead or dying trees are especially important for woodpeckers, as they provide a valuable source of food and nesting sites. Woodpeckers have the remarkable ability to excavate cavities in trees using their strong bills, creating homes for themselves and other cavity-nesting birds.

Feeding Habits

Woodpeckers have a specialized diet that primarily consists of insects, larvae, and tree sap. Their strong bills and long tongues enable them to extract insects from tree bark and drill into wood to access sap. In addition to insects, woodpeckers also feed on fruits, nuts, and seeds.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, in particular, has a unique feeding behavior. It drills small holes in tree trunks, creating sap wells. These wells attract not only the sapsucker itself but also other birds, such as hummingbirds, that feed on the sap.

The Importance of Woodpeckers in New Hampshire

Woodpeckers play a crucial role in the ecosystem of New Hampshire. Their feeding habits help control insect populations, including harmful pests that can damage trees. By excavating cavities in trees, woodpeckers create nesting sites for other bird species that rely on tree cavities for breeding.

Furthermore, the drumming sounds produced by woodpeckers serve as a form of communication and territorial display. These sounds can be heard over long distances and are essential for woodpeckers to establish and defend their territories.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. Are woodpeckers harmful to trees?

No, woodpeckers are not harmful to trees. While they may create small holes in search of insects or sap, these holes do not cause significant damage to healthy trees. In fact, woodpeckers can help control insect populations that can be harmful to trees.

2. How can I attract woodpeckers to my backyard?

To attract woodpeckers to your backyard, provide a variety of food sources such as suet, nuts, and seeds. Additionally, consider installing a bird feeder specifically designed for woodpeckers and provide dead trees or nest boxes as potential nesting sites.

3. Do woodpeckers migrate?

While some woodpecker species are migratory, not all woodpeckers in New Hampshire migrate. The Downy Woodpecker and Hairy Woodpecker, for example, are year-round residents in the state, while the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a migratory species.

4. Can woodpeckers cause damage to houses?

Woodpeckers may occasionally drum on houses, particularly if they are attracted to the sound or are searching for insects. However, this behavior is usually harmless and does not cause significant damage to the structure of the house. To deter woodpeckers from drumming on your house, you can try installing visual deterrents or providing alternative drumming surfaces nearby.

5. How can I identify different woodpecker species?

Woodpeckers can be identified by their size, plumage patterns, and behavior. Field guides and online resources with detailed descriptions and images can help you identify different woodpecker species based on their physical characteristics.

6. Are woodpeckers endangered?

While some woodpecker species are considered threatened or endangered in certain regions, the woodpecker populations in New Hampshire are generally stable. However, it is important to continue preserving their habitats and protecting their nesting sites to ensure their long-term survival.


Woodpeckers in New Hampshire are fascinating birds that contribute to the state’s biodiversity and ecosystem health. With their unique adaptations, feeding habits, and drumming sounds, woodpeckers offer a captivating experience for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. By understanding their habitat preferences and importance in controlling insect populations, we can appreciate the valuable role woodpeckers play in maintaining the balance of New Hampshire’s natural environment.