Black-backed Woodpecker Life History


Habitat ForestsBoreal and montane coniferous forests, especially areas with burned trees.Back to top


Food InsectsLarvae of bark beetles and wood-boring beetles.Back to top


Nest Placement

Nest Cavity

Nest Description

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

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size:2-6 eggs
Egg Length:0.9-1.0 in (2.23-2.59 cm)
Egg Width:0.7-0.8 in (1.75-2.02 cm)
Nestling Period:26-22 days
Egg Description:White.
Condition at Hatching:Naked and helpless.
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Behavior Bark ForagerForages on trunks and fallen logs. Strips bark from trees, probes, and excavates wood.Back to top


Conservation Low ConcernBlack-backed Woodpeckers occur in low densities, and the ephemeral nature of their preferred habitat make true population estimates difficult to obtain. The North American Breeding Bird Survey estimates that populations have been stable, with a possible increase, between 1966 and 2014. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 800,000 with 11% living in the U.S., and 89% in Canada. They are a U.S.-Canada Stewardship species and rate an 11 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. They are not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Black-backed Woodpecker are considered a species of special concern in some states. Back to top


Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. (2014). The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, J. E. Fallon, K. L. Pardieck, Jr. Ziolkowski, D. J. and W. A. Link. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, results and analysis 1966-2013 (Version 1.30.15). USGS Patuxtent Wildlife Research Center (2014b). Available from

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, USA.

Tremblay, Junior A., Rita D. Dixon, Victoria A. Saab, Peter Pyle and Michael A. Patten. (2016). Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus), version 3.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

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