What Does a Baby Woodpecker Look Like?

Updated: Sep. 11, 2023

That unusual bird might be a juvenile or baby woodpecker! Learn what baby woodpeckers eat, how long they stay in the nest, and more.

Identifying a Baby Woodpecker

251064417 1 Mikayla Anderson Bnb Bypc2020Courtesy Mikayla Anderson
Baby northern flickers 

The appearance of baby woodpeckers varies depending on the species. Upon hatching, the babies are pink and bald; as they grow, they sport feathers resembling those of their parents. Often, these juvenile birds lack a key characteristic of adults or look slightly different.

juvenile woodpeckerCourtesy Beth King
Adult red-headed woodpecker feeding a fledgling

Juvenile red-bellied woodpeckers, for example, lack the red markings on the head. Juvenile downy woodpeckers feature red feathers at the tops of their heads.

278077436 1 Kerry Loving Bnb Bypc 2021Courtesy Kerry Loving
Baby red-bellied woodpecker pokes its head out of the nest cavity

It can be tricky to determine the differences between juvenile and adult birds, but typically, if a bird looks unfamiliar for its species, it might be a juvenile. In some cases, juvenile plumage can resemble female plumage.

Discover mind-blowing facts about woodpeckers.

How Long Do Baby Woodpeckers Stay in the Nest?

275323730 1 Bob Quarles Bnb Bypc 2021Courtesy Bob Quarles
Northern flicker nest

Similar to the differences in appearance, the length of time baby woodpeckers spend in the nest varies. A general estimate puts the incubation of eggs at around 2 to 2 1/2 weeks, and the time spent in the nest at about 3 to 4 weeks.

Typical clutch sizes vary. For example, a red-headed woodpecker might lay anywhere from three to 10 eggs, while a pileated woodpecker might lay three to five.

Here’s why woodpeckers peck—and how to stop it.

What Do Baby Woodpeckers Eat?

juvenile red-bellied woodpeckerCourtesy Juanette Birk
Fledgling red bellied woodpecker on a mealworm feeder

Baby woodpeckers’ diets mostly consist of the same or similar foods that their parents consume. Adult woodpeckers will bring the nestlings insects, such as larvae and grubs; seeds, such as black oil sunflower; fruit, such as berries; and other staples typical of a woodpecker.

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What Should I Do If I Find a Baby Woodpecker?

baby downy woodpeckerCourtesy Shirley Saathoff
Baby downy woodpecker on the ground

Many myths exist about what to do if you find a baby bird. Contrary to popular belief, bird parents won’t abandon their young if they “have a human’s scent.” If you find a baby bird that is obviously unable to fly, you can help it by placing it back in its nest.

baby red bellied woodpeckerCourtesy Tanya Brooks
This young red-bellied woodpecker does not need rescuing

However, if the baby woodpecker has obvious plumage and is able to hop, flit, or fly on its own, it’s not a good idea to return it to its nest. This is a juvenile bird, and it’s simply acclimating to the world. There’s a good chance one of its parents is nearby and watching, so there’s no cause for concern.

Next, learn how to identify a hairy woodpecker.