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American Three-toed Woodpecker

Picoides dorsalis

Length: 8 to 9 inches Wingspan: 14 to 16 inches Seasonality: All Seasons
ID Keys: Black barring on sides, yellow cap, black head with white mustache, white on back

American Three-toed Woodpecker - Picoides dorsalis The Three-toed Woodpecker can often be overlooked, as it often may cling to a tree motionless for long periods of time.  They are strongly associated with spruce forests, and are very found of the spruce bark beetle.  Until 2005, the species was considered to be the same as the Eurasian three-toed Woodpecker (now Picoides tridactylus).

Habitat: Found in conifer forests of the West, most often being associated with spruce.  They are also very often found in areas with dead standing trees, such as those killed by fire or flood, as wood-boring insect infestations tend to favor these areas.

Diet: Primarily feeds on the larvae of wood-boring beetles. Also eats other insects, fruit, berries, and will occasionally consume sap from sapsucker bore wells.

Behavior: Forages on conifer trees, often scaling off the bark to gain access to insects underneath. 

Nesting: June and July

Song: Usually silent, although with an occasional pick.  

Migration: Most are permanent residents, although those in northern Canada may move southward a short distance in winter and others may move from higher to lower elevations.

Interactive eBird map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Three-toed Woodpecker sightings

Similar Species: Black-backed Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker

Conservation Status: Numbers generally stable, although they can fluctuate with availability of insects.  The IUCN considers the Three-toed Woodpecker to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Three-toed Woodpecker

2) Audubon Guide - Three-toed Woodpecker

3) WhatBird - Three-toed Woodpecker

Photo Information: December 13th, 2003 -- Spearfish Canyon -- Doug Backlund


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
American Three-toed Woodpecker - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Rare permanent resident in the higher elevations of the Black Hills.

Additional Three-toed Woodpecker Photos (Coming Soon!)