The grey-faced woodpecker's distribution stretches across large parts of the central and Eastern Palaearctic, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. It prefers old mixed coniferous forest with a high proportion of dead trees, feeding primarily on ants. The grey-headed woodpecker's nest is typically excavated into dead or severely damaged trees.
In the majority of areas for which population numbers are available, the grey-faced woodpecker is in decline. IUCN's Least Concern rating is primarily based on the large distribution of the species.