Photo: Denis Fournier/Flickr Creative Commons

Black-backed Woodpecker

Picoides arcticus

Generally uncommon, but not so quiet or inconspicuous as the American Three-toed Woodpecker. Where the two species are found together, the Black-backed usually dominates, perhaps driving the Three-toed away from choice feeding or nesting areas.
Conservation status Local populations rise and fall with changes in feeding conditions, but total population may be more or less stable.
Family Woodpeckers
Habitat Boreal forests of firs and spruces. Favors areas of dead or dying conifers, and may concentrate at burned or flooded areas with many standing dead trees. Also in undamaged forests of pine, Douglas-fir, hemlock, tamarack, and spruce, especially spruce bogs. Frequents lowlands in north, mountains in west.
Generally uncommon, but not so quiet or inconspicuous as the American Three-toed Woodpecker. Where the two species are found together, the Black-backed usually dominates, perhaps driving the Three-toed away from choice feeding or nesting areas.
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Feeding Behavior

Typical foraging behavior involves methodically flaking the bark off of dead trees, searching for insects. May gradually remove the bark from an entire snag; may forage this way on fallen logs as well. Also gleans insects from bark of live trees, rarely catches insects in flight.


Eggs

3-4, sometimes 2-6. White. Incubation is by both sexes (male incubating at night and part of day), probably 12-14 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Male forages farther from nest, may make fewer feeding trips with more food each time. Young thought to leave nest about 25 days after hatching. 1 brood per year.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Male forages farther from nest, may make fewer feeding trips with more food each time. Young thought to leave nest about 25 days after hatching. 1 brood per year.

Diet

Mostly insects. Feeds mainly on the larvae of wood-boring beetles; also eats other insects, spiders, some fruits and nuts.


Nesting

Many aggressive displays, with complex harsh calls; some of these displays may also be used in courtship. Nest site is in cavity in dead tree or stub, usually conifer such as spruce or pine, sometimes birch or other deciduous tree; occasionally in live tree or utility pole. Usually 2-15' above ground, rarely 50' or higher. Cavity excavated by both sexes, with male often doing most of work. Bark usually cleared away from area around entrance hole.

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

Migration

Not strictly migratory, but may move around in response to changing conditions, often moving into a region after fires kill many standing trees. Eastern birds occasionally stage southward irruptions in winter, with scattered individuals showing up well south of breeding range.

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Migration

Not strictly migratory, but may move around in response to changing conditions, often moving into a region after fires kill many standing trees. Eastern birds occasionally stage southward irruptions in winter, with scattered individuals showing up well south of breeding range.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A sharp, fast kyik and a scolding rattle.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Woodpeckers Tree-clinging Birds

Black-backed Woodpecker

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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