Conservation status Numbers seem stable in its limited U.S. range.
Family Woodpeckers
Habitat Oaks in mountains, pine-oak canyons. In its United States range (Arizona and New Mexico only) found exclusively in oaks of foothills and mid-levels of mountains, up into mixed pine-oak woods.
A brown-backed woodpecker of oak woodland, living in mountains near the Mexican border, mainly in southeastern Arizona. Foraging quietly at mid-levels in the oaks, it is often easy to overlook. Much of its behavior is like that of the Hairy Woodpecker, but it is quieter, often forages lower in the trees, and does not dig as deeply into dead wood for insects.

Feeding Behavior

Forages by climbing oaks, pines, other trees, tapping and probing, flaking off bits of bark, searching for insects. Also climbs acrobatically among branches, sometimes hanging upside down, and probes at flowers of agaves and other plants. Male (slightly larger and longer-billed than female) spends more time foraging on trunk, female does more on branches and twigs.


3-4. White. Incubation is by both sexes, about 14 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Age at which young leave nest is not well known; young may follow parents for several weeks after fledging.


Both parents feed nestlings. Age at which young leave nest is not well known; young may follow parents for several weeks after fledging.


Mostly insects. Feeds on a variety of insects, especially larvae of wood-boring beetles; also some berries and small fruits, a few acorns.


Birds may pair up and begin working on nest cavity by mid-winter. Members of pair may drum and tap near potential nest site, and make short gliding display flights nearby. Nest site is cavity in dead stub of large tree, usually 9-50' above ground, sometimes lower in agave stalk. In Arizona, nest cavity is often in walnut (easier to excavate than oak). Excavation is by male or by both sexes.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

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Generally permanent resident, but very rarely may wander to lowlands in winter.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

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Songs and Calls

Call is a sharp peek! or a rasping jee-jee-jee.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Arizona Woodpecker

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate Threats Near You

Climate threats facing the Arizona Woodpecker

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.