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10 Species of Woodpeckers in New Mexico (with Pictures)

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male Hairy Woodpecker

In the southwestern region of the United States, New Mexico is home to many species of woodpeckers that are able to thrive in the dry, hot, and barren landscapes by taking cover amongst the small number of trees available.

If you’re stopping in the state or are already a longtime resident, we’ll show you 10 species of woodpeckers in New Mexico and their characteristics. Stay tuned for information about feeding and attracting them to your home.

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The 10 Species of Woodpeckers in New Mexico

1. Acorn Woodpecker

two Acorn Woodpecker birds

Image Credit: Ondrej Prosicky, Shutterstock

Scientific name: Melanerpes formicivorus
Family: Picidae
Endangerment: Stable

The Acorn Woodpecker is a species that primarily resides in the western portion of New Mexico that borders Arizona, and they nest in oakwood forests. Physically, these woodpeckers will have a red-tipped head and black coat. They love to nest inside trees and collect as many acorns as possible for food storage. However, they are omnivorous and may eat insects as well, such as ants. Be cautious when attracting them to your yard, as they tend to burrow into wooden houses.


2. Red-Headed Woodpecker

Red-Headed Woodpecker

Image Credit: Sean_Ewing, Pixabay

Scientific name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus
Family: Picidae
Endangerment: In decline

In a few scattered spots in eastern New Mexico, you can find this species digging crevices for their food supply, which consists of berries, acorns, seeds, nuts, and even small insects like ants or grasshoppers. In addition to that, they love catching flies for a quick snack.

These birds have a vibrant, saturated head that is covered in crimson, while their body area is a mix of monotone colors. Their habitat is mainly in woodland swamps or farms, but the population is, unfortunately, in decline.


3. Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Image Credit: Veronika_Andrews, Pixabay

Scientific name: Colaptes auratus
Family: Picidae
Endangerment: Stable

Throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico, the Northern Flicker is a common sight, and the majority that live in New Mexico are year-round residents. Their diet is made mostly of ants because they forage on the ground rather than in trees or other standing objects. Still, they do live inside of trees in woodlands for shelter. The color of the Northern Flicker varies depending on which side of the country you are in, but those on the west side of the state will see the reddish hues of their complexion.


4. Downy Woodpecker

downy woodpecker perched on a branch

Image Credit: JackBulmer, Pixabay

Scientific name: Dryobates pubescens
Family: Picidae
Endangerment: Stable

Although Downy Woodpeckers are found throughout the United States and Canada, their limit is just below central New Mexico. You’ll have better luck in the northwest part of the state to find them, where they forage for insects that crawl upon tree canopies.

Visually, they’ve got a set of alternating black and white sections that mask their head. They have a small, pinkish-orange top as well as checkered-style wings. Be careful not to mix them up with Hairy Woodpeckers, as they look nearly identical.


5. Lewis’s Woodpecker

Lewis's Woodpecker with an acorn

Image Credit: rbrown10, Shutterstock

Scientific name: Melanerpes lewis
Family: Picidae
Endangerment: Unstable

With pinkish-red highlights around the eyes and bottom body portion, Lewis’s Woodpecker is a bird that has wings that look much like a crow’s. Instead of foraging in the bark of trees or into the ground, this species dominates the air by catching flies or grasshoppers. They do nest in tree cavities, but their population is low due to habitat loss. The best time to try and find them is during the months ranging from April to July.


6. American Three-Toed Woodpecker

American Three-Toed Woodpecker

Image Credit: allixout, Shutterstock

Scientific name: Picoides dorsalis
Family: Picidae
Endangerment: Stable

The American Three-Toed Woodpecker is a rarity in New Mexico and can only be found in the central area of the state, as well as along its border with Colorado. Unlike many red-topped birds on this list, the males of this species display a yellow color with black wings and a whitish-gray body. They love dense forests that are strewn with bug larvae behind the layers of bark. They nest in the cavities of trees to shield their young and can defend them with their strong beaks.


7. Williamson’s Sapsucker

Male Williamson's Sapsucker on a tree

Image Credit: Randy Bjorklund, Shutterstock

Scientific name: Sphyrapicus thyroideus
Family: Picidae
Endangerment: Stable

Both the central and eastern regions of New Mexico are home to Williamson’s Sapsucker. The most obvious identification trouble you might have is to try and differentiate males from females. They look as if they are an entirely different bird species. The male has a yellow underbelly, red throat, and black coat. The female looks striped with a mix of colors on the wings and back portion with a brownish head.


8. Hairy Woodpecker

hairy woodpecker bird perching on a tree branch

Image Credit: JackBulmer, Pixabay

Scientific name: Dryobates villosus
Family: Picidae
Endangerment: Stable

As we mentioned with the Downy Woodpecker, these species can often be mistaken for each other. The Hairy Woodpecker is a bit larger and lives across the entirety of the North American continent, spanning to central America. In New Mexico, the only place you might have trouble finding them is near the border of Texas.

You have likely seen them before, as they are one of the most common types of woodpeckers and live in one place for most of their lives. Hairy Woodpeckers have a distinct pinkish-red head and white-spotted wings. Similar to other woodpeckers, they love to consume insects and forage trees.


9. Gila Woodpecker

gila woodpecker perched

Image Credit: Virginie Merckaert, Shutterstock

Scientific name: Melanerpes uropygialis
Family: Picidae
Endangerment: Stable

If you travel to the southwestern corner of the state where Mexico, Arizona, and New Mexico collide, you may be able to witness a Gila Woodpecker. These birds have a gorgeous display of checkerboard wings, as well as a golden body and pinkish-red tip on their heads. They primarily feed on insects like ants and grasshoppers, which they store inside of the cacti that they also eat fruits from. Their desert habitat keeps them in the same area year-round.


10. Arizona Woodpecker

female Arizona Woodpecker perched

Image Credit: Hayley Crews, Shutterstock

Scientific name: Dryobates arizonae
Family: Picidae
Endangerment: Unstable

Though the name suggests that this species resides in Arizona, they cover most of their habitual area in Mexico. You will only be able to see them in New Mexico if you visit a minuscule region of the southwestern edge of the state. Males boast a saturated red crest, whereas females have a continuous brown color on their bodies. The Arizona Woodpecker is a bird that enjoys feeding on ants and living in woodland forests.

Conclusion

New Mexico contains striking woodpecker species that often exhibit beautiful colors of red, black, orange, yellow, and white. This list was in no particular order, as we all have our preferences. If you’re hoping to attract or sightsee local woodpeckers while living or visiting in New Mexico, we hope this guided you to some of the best birds in the state. Always remember to keep a safe observational distance and have fun!


Featured Image Credit: JackBulmer, Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.

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