The Ultimate Guide To Woodpecker Symbolism

Woodpeckers are stunning creatures that make noise by pecking on the bark of trees and other structures. Woodpeckers fly, sit on poles, or rest on trees. If you’re lucky, you may be able to see one as it pecks on a house, building, or tree. Woodpeckers are iconic for their red heads. However, many people may not know that some woodpeckers do not have red heads.

There are around 180 woodpeckers in the Picidae family, and each is slightly different in color, habitat, and personality. Woodpeckers live nearly everywhere in the world, with a few exceptions. You won’t find woodpeckers in parts of Australia and New Guinea.

To see a woodpecker, you’ll have to look at the trees, where they spend most of their lives. Woodpeckers will spend the majority of their lives in the trees, searching for insects and feeding on stray bugs they come across.

So, what do woodpeckers mean when you see them in the wild? There are many meanings that a woodpecker can have spiritually, mythologically, and religiously. Here, we will discuss a woodpecker’s various symbolic and spiritual meanings.

What Does the Symbolism of Woodpeckers Mean?

Woodpeckers have been around for 25 million years and have been witnessed by nearly every civilization in human history. Because woodpeckers are such an old species, people have made theories and put meaning to them. Woodpeckers are generally associated with strength, wisdom, and perseverance.

Woodpeckers use their strong beaks to peck at the bark of a tree to lure out insects and pests for their meal. Without this hard work, woodpeckers won’t eat. Woodpeckers represent resilience and are often regarded as a positive omen that good fortune and rewards are coming to your life soon.

The Woodpecker as a Spiritual Symbol

lotus symbol
Image by Darwin Laganzon from Pixabay

The woodpecker is a spiritual symbol and can mean many different things, depending on the context of your sighting. A woodpecker generally indicates strength, wisdom, persistence, and opportunity. However, a woodpecker can also denote kindness, courage, protection, and the ability to think clearly.

A woodpecker sighting may also be a call to continue working hard or a sign that an opportunity is upon you.

The Woodpecker in Various Cultures and Religions

Woodpeckers have meant different things to various cultures and religions in the world. Although woodpeckers generally mean strength, wisdom, and opportunity, they can mean other things to other cultures.

For example, woodpeckers will have a slightly different meaning in Greek and Roman mythology, although the two mythologies are similar. As a result, people from these areas will view woodpeckers differently, and those separated by oceans will see woodpeckers vastly differently because ancient ideas likely didn’t traverse continents.

Native American

dream catcher representing bird meaning to native indians

Woodpeckers are common in North America, and Native American myths and legends often involve these loud, little birds. Woodpeckers indicate compassion and generosity because they can lure out many insects but may not eat all of them. Woodpeckers also symbolize resources, community, and determination.

Native American tribes also viewed woodpeckers as creative, sturdy, and a sign of healing.

Christianity

spiritual meaning through christian bible

Christianity views woodpeckers similarly to the rest of the world, but with minor changes. Woodpeckers signify perseverance, generosity, obedience, wisdom, and gratitude for everything God has offered. Christianity uses woodpeckers to show that hard work and determination will always pay off and that it is what God desires you to commit to.

Welsh

Welsh flag depicting red dragon
Welsh flag. Photo by Miti on Unsplash

Woodpeckers are usually a positive omen, but Welsh mythology has a darker view of them. According to Welsh lore, if you heard a woodpecker cry, you could be certain that rain was coming. 

Unfortunately, it isn’t a mild summer’s rain that the woodpecker, or storm mare as it was called, brought. It summoned or foretold huge storms. The Celtic Welsh also believed that the woodpecker would allow snakes to eat her babies, fleeing herself to safety.

Thus, a woodpecker was a sign of coming turbulence, coupled with the horror of infanticide.

Indonesian

In Indonesian cultures, woodpeckers are associated with hard work, resourcefulness, and wisdom. Woodpeckers are hard workers and use all their might to survive and enjoy life. Woodpeckers are wise and choose where to put their energy for the best outcome.

Roman Mythology

Statue of Mars, Roman god of war.
Mars, Roman god of war. Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

Woodpeckers were considered sacred birds to the Roman god Mars, who presided over war and fertility. Mars was well-liked by his patrons and was worshipped and lauded as a kind guardian. 

Mars had a woodpecker named Picus who presided over agriculture. Thus, woodpeckers in Roman mythology were indicative of a good harvest and protection from war, plague, or evil.

Greek Mythology

statue of Ares, Greek god of war.
Ares, Greek god of war. Photo by Miti on Unsplash

Greek mythology has a god of war named Ares, similar to the Roman god Mars. However, Ares is not very loved and is more of a boogeyman than a protagonist. However, like his Roman counterpart, Ares holds woodpeckers dear in Greek mythology, and these birds signify protection and guardianship—just with a slightly more violent and ruthless context.

Woodpecker Symbolism by Topic

Woodpeckers have a general, spiritual meaning, but their meaning can change depending on the topic or subject. For example, if you see a woodpecker during a conversation with a friend about a person you have a crush on, the woodpecker sighting might mean an opportunity for this match to work out.

Woodpeckers can have various meanings, and they can change depending on the context. Always consider if the woodpecker is seen in a dream, real life, or a movie. 

Love

Woodpeckers tend to travel alone or in pairs at most. Because of this limited travel, woodpeckers are considered one of the most romantic bird types. When you see a woodpecker and are thinking about a potential partner, this sighting may be a sign that this match may be right for you.

A woodpecker sighting when you are in a relationship encourages you to remain strong and committed

Death

Woodpeckers are often seen on dead trees because insects and pests may roam there. A woodpecker in the context of death encourages you to seek meaning and value in things that have gone unwanted by others, or as a sign for your own bad habits to die.

Dreams

dream symbolism of birds
Image by Artie_Navarre from Pixabay

Dreaming of a woodpecker may mean different things, depending on the situation. For example, if the woodpecker is tapping at a tree, you may be going through a turbulent time with your family. If a woodpecker decides to visit you at home, this may mean a friend is planning to stop by. If you simply dream of a woodpecker, you may need to be more cautious in life with what you do and how you speak to others.

Tattoos

Outside of Woody the Woodpecker, many woodpecker tattoos focus on the woodpecker’s feather. Tattoos of a woodpecker feather signify a person’s inner strength and ability to keep pushing forward in the face of strife. Similarly, because the birds themselves are quite good at problem-solving, this tattoo can be a sign of cleverness or creativity.

Spirit Animal

Also known as a totem or power animal, a spirit animal is an animal you most resonate with due to past experiences or events. 

A woodpecker as your spirit animal is a testament to strength, wisdom, and the knowledge that words themselves have power. A woodpecker as your spirit animal speaks to your sheer power of will and zest for control.

What Does It Mean When a Woodpecker Visits You?

Being visited by a woodpecker is a fun and thrilling experience. These are beautiful and industrious birds who seem to never tire of their labor. But what if one visits you specifically?

Having a woodpecker visit you may mean you need to get back in touch with nature and the natural world around you. If you have been caught up in modern life and haven’t had time lately to go and be in a green space, and you see a woodpecker visit you, take this as a sign to go for a hike or connect with nature in some way.

Is Seeing a Woodpecker Good Luck?

sharmock for good luck
Good luck 4-leaf clover. Image by Gaby Stein from Pixabay

Woodpeckers symbolize good luck in many ancient cultures and can be linked with wishes coming true, hard work, and soul healing. Woodpeckers use their beaks to dislodge insects they intend to eat and usually only eat if they work hard for it. Seeing a woodpecker may indicate that you have worked hard and are now ready to reap the rewards of that hard effort.

Seeing a woodpecker may indicate that good luck is coming your way, or it may be a sign to keep persevering and pushing toward your goals because they will come true soon.

What Does It Mean When a Woodpecker is Pecking on Your House?

Sometimes, a woodpecker will peck at your house because it thinks there is food inside and that it can lure out insects hiding in your walls. They may also be trying to attract a mate or build their nest in your home.

However, spiritually this can take on a very different meaning. A woodpecker pecking at your house may mean that there is something special within you that perhaps you cannot see.

Woodpeckers peck at trees to lure out something valuable: their food. When a woodpecker pecks at your home, this may be a sign to look inward and recognize the special things about you that go easily unnoticed.

What Is the Meaning of a Red-Headed Woodpecker?

Red-headed woodpecker.
Red-headed woodpecker. Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

A red-headed woodpecker can mean that you have reached a new level of maturity or handled a situation with emotional maturity. This is a positive sign that you are on the right path toward embracing maturity and rising above the challenges that other people pose.

Are Woodpeckers Good to Have Around?

Woodpeckers are good for the environment and will remove many pests and bugs from trees surrounding your home. Depending on your culture and beliefs, woodpeckers can be a great sign to have around. They can remind us of our friends, of our own maturity, or of the benefits of hard work.

While it’s true they can also represent coming storms, the woodpecker will always keep on keeping on, regardless of what happens. That’s not a bad lesson to learn!


Check out The Ultimate Guide to Pileated Woodpecker Meaning & Symbolism for more fascinating woodpecker symbolism!


Final Thoughts

Woodpeckers are vibrant and stunning birds that are found worldwide. These loud birds can be found in nearly every corner of the world, with minor exceptions of Australia and New Guinea. Woodpeckers have dozens of different meanings in different cultures, religions, and topics.

Woodpeckers have been around for millions of years and have developed stunning rich colors. These birds can have various meanings but usually signify strength, a new opportunity, and wisdom. In many cases, a woodpecker sighting can be advice to have courage and be kind. 

The meaning of a woodpecker can change depending on your interaction with one. So take careful note of where you see the woodpecker, what’s happening with it, and the feeling it gives you.

Woodpeckers are majestic creatures that aren’t often seen without some searching. So consider what things may be hidden from you and hope that when you see a woodpecker, good things will come to your life. Woodpeckers are resilient, so you, too, can be resilient.

More than 25 years ago, Tammy put her first bird feeder outside her kitchen window. Since then she learned how to attract wild birds to her backyard. Studying the meaning & symbolism of wild birds is also a passion of hers. Read more about Tammy