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Woodpecker Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)


The symbolism of the woodpecker is vast and varied. This fascinating group of birds appear in a number of cultural traditions and can impart great deal of wisdom upon the curious observer. Woodpecker teach us to broaden our horizons, embrace new opportunities, protect the vulnerable, and think creatively.

The woodpecker is connected to pattern recognition, rhythm, and communication. (1)

The woodpecker teaches us to look beneath the surface of things and to open up our minds to the hidden meanings, lessons, and opportunities that life on earth has to offer.

Table of contents

Woodpecker Symbolism and Meaning

The woodpecker often symbolizes the new opportunities that come knocking into our lives; it reminds us that we must answer the call of opportunity or otherwise remain ignorant and stagnate. Having the awareness to appreciate the woodpecker and its wisdom can help one to recognize chances to grow and expand.

This awareness helps us to tap into our natural talents. Creativity and optimism are valuable virtues which the woodpecker can help us to access. Be it an old abandoned project, a forgotten goal or dream, or a neglected relationship, the woodpecker gives us the courage and motivation to seek revival.

Woodpeckers can also symbolize the value of marching to the beat of your own drum. The woodpecker can be a powerful symbol for self-actualization.

Woodpeckers remind us that life is a balancing act. Kindness and honesty are important, but can lead others to take advantage of us. We must learn to protect ourselves while still doing our best to see the good in the world and act with generosity.

Woodpeckers can also symbolize the following concepts:

  • Initiation
  • Return
  • Balance
  • Discernment
  • Communication
  • Opportunity
  • Signal
  • Balance
  • Determination
  • Progress
  • Attention
  • Protection

Related: 11 Tips to Attract Woodpeckers to Your Backyard

Woodpecker Native American Symbolism

The Native American meaning of the woodpecker is deeply connected to themes of home, safety, and protection. In many tribes, the woodpecker is a helpful spirit which protects and guides the growth of the home and family.

The woodpeckers’ nests, safely ensconced in holes dug in trees, are outstanding examples of safety and motherly protection. (2) Thus, the Native American meaning of the woodpecker is inseparable from the comfort and safety of the home. (3)

Native American cultures also associate the woodpecker with intelligence and knowledge, mainly due to her digging and pecking habits. She teaches us about her tireless quest to seek knowledge and discoveries, secure her well-being with perseverance, and fiercely protect her progeny.

Native American cultures also associate the drumming of the woodpecker with nature’s heartbeat. Woodpeckers embody the concept of life, our bond with Mother Earth, and the continuous energy flowing through all living beings. Native cultures associate the woodpeckers’ incessant drumming with heartbeats and passions. 

It is commonly held that adorning oneself with a woodpecker feather enables one to communicate with natural forces. Woodpeckers can represent dominance over the forces of nature. Overall, Native cultures believe that woodpeckers hold the secrets to the mysteries of life and the endless power of nature. Therefore, understanding the woodpecker’s spiritual meaning is crucial.

Related: 5 Best Woodpecker Feeders That Actually Work

Woodpecker Christianity Symbolism

Woodpeckers are deeply meaningful in many cultures. They can be incredibly powerful biblical symbols.

Animals, and particularly birds, are important Christian symbols. Throughout the bible, God uses animals as symbols and teaching tools. Additionally, birds are common envoys of the joy and beauty of God’s creation.

God uses woodpecker as a testimony of His existence and His might. If you consider the beak of a woodpecker, you would note its unique design, specialized for hammering into the toughest of trees. The sturdy, thick beak of the woodpecker spirit animal embodies the beautiful complexity of creation and the specialized nature of each creature under the sun.

Though it appears to be complex and delicate, the woodpecker has no shortage of industrious strength. Woodpeckers have special cartilage between the head and beak to secure and cushion it against the shocks from constant drumming. (4) If a woodpecker can remain resilient and unbreakable despite such challenges, then the faithful can call upon God’s power to weather any storm or challenges that life can dish out.

The entire unique mechanism of a woodpecker can be seen as evidence of intelligent design by the creator. Many biblical verses come to mind concerning the woodpecker’s unique creation.


“He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly.”

Woodpeckers are often seen climbing trees upright. Their unique anatomy and behaviors symbolize God’s glory. (5)

In true Biblical fashion, the woodpecker reminds us of the virtues that the bible espouses: perseverance, humility, generosity, obedience, wisdom, and gratitude for God’s blessings.

Woodpecker Celtic Symbolism

The ancient Celtic association of the woodpecker is closely tied to the supernatural and the otherworld. The Celts believe that all aspects of life interlink with each other and with the otherworld. In many instances, birds are considered to be the thing that connects the material world and the world of the supernatural.

Animals and birds represent vitality and fertility in Celtic mythology. They represent the wildness of nature and the connection between humanity and the natural world.

Birds, in Celtic tradition are sometimes thought to be messengers. Heroes were said to gain special knowledge by learning to speak the languages of birds. The percussive drumming and sharp call of the woodpecker could represent hidden knowledge and wisdom, as well as messages from beyond the veil.

Additionally, the fondness that woodpeckers have for dead trees represents finding value in unwanted things and communing with the dead.

Moreover, as per the Celtic belief, the woodpecker indicates how one must reconnect with their roots and always trust their gut feelings. Woodpeckers represent uncovering secrets and hidden wisdom. Reconnecting to the past can be an excellent resource for growth and knowledge.

Woodpecker in Dreams

Woodpeckers in dreams can indicate anything from mystery and magic to wisdom and opportunity. No matter the context, though, a woodpecker dream is an opportunity to learn and to broaden one’s horizons.

A woodpecker in your dreams can be a sign that great things are coming. Such a dream reminds you to seek opportunities to fulfill your incredible potential. Seek new perspectives and be creative in pursuing the opportunities that will surely come your way.

A dream in which a woodpecker visits your home can indicate the growth and protection of the family. On the other hand, it can also be a sign of an impending financial loss. For this reason, a woodpecker visit in a dream can mean that you should exercise caution when it comes to financial decision making.

Depending upon the context of the dream, seeing a woodpecker in your dream could be connected to fear, joy, financial distress, good times ahead, opportunities, love, and even aggression. One thing that is almost universal when dreaming of a woodpecker is the fact that this symbol is meant to call your attention to something important. Do not neglect the message of the woodpecker, whatever that may be.

Woodpecker Encounters and Omens

When you encounter a woodpecker in a woodland or park, it is always an opportunity to learn from nature. In some cases, an encounter symbolizes how you need to connect with others. It can represent how all beings are connected and how we can make the world innately better by strengthening the bonds between us.

Secondly, coming across a woodpecker can also signify heightened awareness. It may be a reminder to take careful note of all the opportunities knocking on your door and to be sure to take advantage of the right ones. Woodpeckers can be a great inspiration to us, especially due to their resourcefulness. To a woodpecker, a dead tree is a home for its young, a source of food, and an instrument for communication.

While the woodpecker hammers her beak against the hard surface of a tree’s trunk to obtain her reward, you can use your wisdom, creativity, and perseverance to reap the maximum benefits in your personal life. No matter how impossible or complicated your situation, maybe, if you use your head wisely and persevere, you can succeed like the woodpecker does.

Apart from these positive signs, is a woodpecker a sign of death or an omen? 

According to the Slavic traditions in the East, woodpeckers have some connection with death and bad luck. The Slavic people believe that the drumming of a woodpecker announces the death and the wood that the bird forages are unsuitable for human use. (6) Although this is true, one could also see the woodpecker as a symbol of humility and rebirth rather than an omen of impending doom.

Woodpecker Mythology and Folklore

Woodpeckers feature prominently in several ancient mythologies from all over the world.

The woodpecker is an important symbol in Roman mythology. Picus, the woodpecker, was a creature with sacred significance to the god of war, Mars. Picus was so important, in fact, that he became a minor god in ancient Italy. Woodpeckers were revered for their fertile and productive natures. (7)

Ancient Roman mythology also associated Picus with the fertilization of soil and manure. The agricultural importance of this deity connected it to nature and the land as well as human prosperity.

In Greek mythology too, the woodpecker is sacred to Ares, the Greek equivalent of Mars, and Zeus.

Woodpeckers have also been the stars of folklore stories from various cultures all around the world. Native American, Indian and Irish tribes have spun fanciful tales including the woodpecker to entertain and educate one another. 

‘Why the Woodpecker Pecks’ from the Tejas Legends, and the Lenape myth of the Woodpecker and the Sugar Maple, are two excellent examples. (8) The latter demonstrates the empathy and compassion associated with the woodpecker.

Woodpecker Spirit Animal

If you have the woodpecker as your spirit animal, this indicates that you are deeply committed to your loved ones. People with this spirit animal are highly in tune with others and value their friends and family above all else. Having the woodpecker as your spirit animal is a sign of how fiercely you love others and how strongly you crave connection and acceptance.

Because of your intense devotion to others, you are sensitive and empathetic. Often, people with the woodpecker as their spirit animal can instinctively sense when a loved one is suffering, distressed, hurt, or sad. A woodpecker’s heart is inherently kind, and thus, people with this spirit animal are endlessly giving.

The woodpecker spirit animal is a born nurturer. People with this spirit animal are often happiest caring for others. This is especially evident in the ways that they interact with their home and family. Loyalty and faithfulness are traits that the woodpecker instills. People with the woodpecker spirit animal are truly capable of loving unconditionally.

The woodpecker spirit animal is also persistent and industrious. People with this spirit animal stubbornly and tirelessly hammer away at the obstacles that challenge them.

Woodpecker Totem Animal

The woodpecker totem symbolizes opportunity. Like the knocking sound produced by the woodpecker’s drumming, this totem reminds you to open the door when opportunity knocks. Seizing opportunities, as well as adapting to life’s rhythms, are the principle powers of the woodpecker totem animal.

The woodpecker totem is connected with stubbornness and perseverance. Woodpeckers can feed themselves due to their determination to find the hidden treasures beneath life’s dull and unyielding surfaces. Without the tenacity to hammer away at things, the woodpecker would not be able to eat or survive. Thus, the woodpecker totem teaches us to be relentless.

With a woodpecker as your animal totem, it is a useful exercise to recall any past events in life when you gave up too soon and missed great outcomes. The woodpecker guides us towards self-actualization by urging us to examine our failures and grow stronger from them. If at first you do not succeed, the woodpecker totem instructs you to try, try again. If the woodpecker did not continue pecking at even the dead trees, it wouldn’t find the bounty of nature.

The woodpecker animal totem tells you to keep moving forward until you reached your desired success level. The woodpecker totem brings a guiding spirit into the lives of those who focus their energy on a bright and positive future.

Woodpecker Power Animal

The woodpecker power animal appeals to those who wish to enhance their communication skills. You can distinguish a woodpecker’s drumming quite distinctly from all the other sounds of nature that fill a landscape. Similarly, as a power animal, the woodpecker helps you to find your voice. This power animal helps you to achieve concise and clear expression.

The woodpecker power animal crystallizes your message’s precision and makes it possible for others to understand your subtle clues, your signals, and your unspoken communication better.

When you are navigating through a difficult patch in life, invoke the woodpecker power animal in order to grow fearlessly determined, and in order to learn how to communicate your needs to others. Asking for help is an important skill. The woodpecker power animal will drive you to peck away at any barriers standing in our path, barrel forward in your quest for truth, and persistently hammer out the difficulties with determination and faithfulness to your course.

Woodpecker Tattoo Meaning

The Native Americans looked upon the woodpecker as a symbol of resourcefulness, compassion, and generosity. These are the chief values represented by the choice to get a woodpecker tattoo.

A woodpecker tattoo can also represent determination, creativity, security, healing medicine, uniqueness, wisdom, and sturdiness. It is also a way of expressing a love for or connection to the natural world.

Final Thoughts

There are few animals that can match the woodpecker for resilience, determination, beauty, and grit. As a power animal, a totem, and a spirit animal, the woodpecker stands for strength, opportunity, wisdom, kindness, courage, foresight, and protection. 

Never one to give up, the woodpecker finds the value in the most hopeless of things, and makes remarkable good come out of it. Like a woodpecker stubbornly hammering away at the hard wood of a tree, this creature teaches us that true rewards are attained through hard work.

From red-bellied, golden-fronted, you can find this bird in many striking and colorful forms. The woodpecker is a truly vibrant bird whose many virtues impart wisdom upon those who pay attention to them. For people who feel connected to the woodpecker, it is a guiding and teaching force.

For those who seek to master the ever-changing rhythms of life, there is no better teacher than nature’s own percussion prodigy: the stalwart woodpecker.


12 thoughts on “Woodpecker Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)”

  1. Avatar

    a red headed woodpecker pecking right Infront of my window and i feel blessed learning about it through this article…thank you so much!!

  2. Avatar

    I was thinking of the words to a song, so I found an Alex Boye music video of him performing “Have I Done Any Good.” As I began singing, while gazing out my kitchen window, beautiful downy woodpecker appeared in my neighbor’s apple tree. It was so strikingly beautiful to me that I later looked up and found pictures and symbolic meaning on this site. Well, I certainly got the message, and it was well received.

  3. Avatar

    I was thinking of the words to a song, so I found an Alex Boys music video of him performing “Have I Done Any Good.” As I began singing, while gazing out my kitchen window, beautiful downy woodpecker appeared in my neighbor’s apple tree. It was so strikingly beautiful to me that I later looked up and found pictures and symbolic meaning on this site. Well, I certainly got the message, and it was well received.

  4. Avatar

    I just heard a wood pecker pecking on a dead tree in my back area, in the woods
    I just had had a early morning vision of a bird bringing me a message. Now that I’ve received the message and understanding of the wood pecker-I need to just take it all in- the positive energy and message I’ve got from it. But I’m curious, why me?, oh well. Still waiting for more details on this mystery and Blessings of the Wood Pecker at the door of my mind.

    1. Avatar

      I found a nest of woodpeckers and I felt so blessed to meet them up close and personal. Beautiful creatures. I had no idea of how important their symbolism was in so many different cultures.

  5. Avatar

    I came home from one of the BEST Christmases I’ve had in 15yrs, my boys and I reunited. When I came home I found a dead red-crowned woodpecker laying at my front door, even though I’m not superstitious this struck a curiosity. Our family is going through the chance of losing a loved one so maybe this is the reason for the interest.

  6. Avatar

    My husband passed away. I was talking to my daughter on the phone when I looked outside and saw a red-headed woodpecker. I told her oh my God there’s a beautiful red-headed woodpecker out here I said I should go get my phone and take a picture she said mom sometimes you need to take the moment in so I didn’t the next day I get a message from her I open it and it’s a picture of a redheaded woodpecker on her porch.

  7. Avatar

    I was running out my anger and grief about a recent job loss and I heard the words “strong women” and realized that is a part of what I want to do in the world “rebuild strong women.” A few paces later I found a woodpecker feather – gray down the center with white spots down the sides. I felt drawn to keep it and wondered about the symbolism. I never expected to find such a thorough and helpful article. I am printing it out – it speaks to me and gives me hope. Thank you 🙏🏽

    1. Avatar

      I have a almost fledged Downy Woodpecker living in my home because my partner found him unable to fly and not a nest in sight or a parent. He is eating well and in four days has grown and has all of his feathers except for the down on his belly. The problem seems to be his inability to grasp with his feet or walk! Do you have any ideas on how long I should keep him? I was a Veterinarian technician so I can do this for as long as it takes, is that fair to him, Red as we call him! ♥️

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