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American Three-toed Woodpecker


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Found in boreal forests and montane coniferous forests across North America. Because of its choice of habitat, it is infrequently seen by most people.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
7.9 in
20 cm
2.3 oz
65 g
Other Names
  • Northern Three-toed Woodpecker, Three-toed Woodpecker
  • Pic à dos rayé (French)
  • Carpintero de tres dedos (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The American Three-toed Woodpecker breeds farther north than any other American woodpecker. The closely related Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker is the only woodpecker in the world that extends farther north.
  • The "Three-toed Woodpecker" was split in 2003 into the American Three-toed and Eurasian Three-toed woodpeckers. The two species are nearly identical in appearance, but differ in mitochondrial DNA sequences and in voice.
  • Most woodpeckers have four toes on each foot. The three-toed and Black-backed woodpeckers have only three. The loss of the fourth toe may help deliver stronger blows, but at the expense of climbing ability.



  • Boreal and montane coniferous forests, especially mature forests with abundance of insect-infested snags or dying trees, and spruce forests.
  • Uses forests disturbed by disease, fire, or other disasters.



Larvae of bark beetles and wood-boring beetles.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
3–7 eggs
Egg Description
White, rather round.
Condition at Hatching
Naked and helpless.
Nest Description

Nest in hole in trunk of tree; chips or wood fibers in bottom of cavity.

Nest Placement



Bark Forager

Forages mostly on trunks, not branches or fallen logs. Strips bark from trees.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

The American Three-toed Woodpecker populations are difficult to estimate, though they appear to be stable according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 1.1 million with 21% living in the U.S., and 79% living in Canada. They rate a 10 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and are not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. These woodpeckers are sensitive to forest fragmentation, and timber harvest may lead to a decline. The American Three-toed Woodpecker is of concern in several states.


  • Leonard, D. L., Jr. 2001. Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus). In The Birds of North America, No. 588 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
  • Banks, R. C., et al. 2003. Forty-fourth supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American Birds. Auk 120: 923-931.
  • North American Bird Conservation Initiative, U.S. Committee. 2014. State of the Birds 2014 Report. U.S. Department of Interior, Washington, DC.
  • Partners in Flight. 2012. Species assessment database.
  • USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. 2014. North American Breeding Bird Survey 1966–2014 Analysis.

Range Map Help

American Three-toed Woodpecker Range Map
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