Diamond P Photography
by James Gault of Park City Utah 801-755-6737
Woodpecker Information

Woodpeckers typically have two toes pointed forward and two pointed backwards. Most birds have three toed pointed forward and one backward. Two wood peckers have three toes all pointed forward, more like shore birds. These two are the three toed woodpecker and the black backed.


Two of the more than 200 woodpecker species are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

DESCRIPTION The woodpecker's strong, pointed beak acts as both a chisel and a crowbar to remove bark and find hiding insects. It has a very long tongue up to four inches in some species - with a glue-like substance on the tip for catching insects. While most birds have one toe pointing back and three pointing forward on each foot, woodpeckers have two sharply clawed toes pointing in each direction to help them grasp the sides of trees and balance while they hammer. Many woodpecker species also have stiffened tail feathers, which they press against a tree surface to help support their weight.

SIZE The largest species, the imperial woodpecker of Mexico, is about 22 inches long. It has been listed under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services' Endangered Species Act since 1970 and may be extinct. The Kogera woodpecker, found in Japan, is the smallest species at six inches in length.

LIFESPAN Woodpeckers live an average of four to 11 years

RANGE: Woodpeckers can be found in wooded areas all over the world, except in Australia.

HABITAT: Woodpeckers live in wooded areas and forests. Some woodpecker species require a very specific conditions for their home. For example, the red-cockaded woodpecker can only live in mature pine forests in the southeastern United States.

FOOD: Woodpeckers eat a diet of insects, fruit, acorns and nuts .

BEHAVIOR: Woodpeckers are known for tapping on tree trunks in order to find insects living in crevices in the bark and to excavate nest cavities. Some species drum on trees to communicate to other woodpeckers and as a part of their courtship behavior. Woodpeckers tap an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 times per day.


Males and females work together to excavate a cavity in a tree that is used as a nest and to incubate eggs for about two weeks. A female woodpecker usually produces four eggs per clutch. When a woodpecker hatches it is blind and does not have any feathers. One parent brings food to the nest while the other parent stays with the young. Woodpeckers leave the nest after 25 - 30 days.


Loss of habitat, human encroachment, pesticides .


The red-cockaded and imperial woodpecker are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.


Downy woodpecker Picoides pubescens

Identification Tips:

Adult male:

Similar species:

Other small black and white woodpeckers such as Ladder-backed, Strickland's, Red-cockaded and Nuttall's have longer bills, barred backs, and patterning on the chests. Black-backed woodpecker is easily distinguished by the darker face, black back, and barred flanks. Three-toed Woodpecker is best distinguished by the darker face and barred flanks, since some races can have white backs. Juvenile Hairy Woodpeckers on the Queen Charlotte Islands have barred outer tail feathers and such birds should be carefully separated from Downy Woodpeckers by their larger size and larger bills. Hairy Woodpecker is most similar, but is larger, with a longer bill, entirely white outer tail feathers, and a different call.

Length and wingspan from: Robbins, C.S., Bruun, B., Zim, H.S., (1966). Birds of North America. New York: Western Publishing Company, Inc.















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