Black-backed Woodpecker

Silhouette WoodpeckersWoodpeckers

Black-backed Woodpecker

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

Nearly synonymous with burned forests over much of its range, the Black-backed Woodpecker specializes on eating big, juicy wood-boring beetle larvae. It is an inky black bird with a sharp white stripe on its black face, fine black barring on the flanks, and, in males, a yellow crown patch. These enterprising birds locate burned forests just weeks to months after a forest fire and then live off the bounty of insects over the next 5 to 8 years. In areas with fewer fires, they may also use bark beetle outbreaks or bogs.

More ID Info
image of range map for Black-backed WoodpeckerRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

Find This Bird

Over much of their range, the secret to finding Black-backed Woodpeckers boils down to finding burned forests between about 1 and 8 years old. These forests are often bursting with birds and harbor many species of woodpeckers, all but guaranteeing great birding. Look for stands of large, thick-barked trees where patches of bark have been chipped away. Listen for their sharp chip notes (with a bit of a lisp compared to Hairy Woodpeckers) and for drumming that trails off at the end (very similar to American Three-toed). Black-backeds often stay in one place for long periods and forage fairly low on the main trunk, allowing good views.

Other Names
  • Pico Ártico (Spanish)
  • Pic à dos noir (French)
  • Cool Facts