American Three-toed Woodpecker

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American Three-toed Woodpecker

Picoides dorsalis
  • ORDER: Piciformes
  • FAMILY: Picidae
Basic Description

A small, unobtrusive woodpecker of northern North America and western mountains, the American Three-toed Woodpecker specializes on the plentiful insect populations found in bark beetle outbreaks, young burned areas, and other disturbances. Its distinctive foraging style involves chipping sideways at dead and dying trees until flakes of bark fall away, revealing insect larvae in the sap-rich tissue just beneath. It has a distinctive drumming style that begins rapidly and trails off at the end, similar only to its larger relative, the Black-backed Woodpecker.

More ID Info
image of range map for American Three-toed WoodpeckerRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

Find This Bird

American Three-toed Woodpeckers are much more numerous in disturbed forests than in mature green forest, so look for them in bark beetle outbreaks, recently burned areas (up through about 8 years after a wildfire), and other places with dead and dying trees. In spring males and females drum on hard, dead trees and call frequently. This species’ habit of flaking off bark when foraging leaves tree trunks with a patchwork appearance of dark outer bark and lighter inner bark, a good indication that woodpeckers are around.

Other Names
  • Pico Tridáctilo Americano (Spanish)
  • Pic à dos rayé (French)
  • Cool Facts