Gila Woodpecker Life History


Habitat DesertsFound in deserts that have large cacti or trees suitable for nesting (especially saguaro cactus), dry subtropical forests, riparian woodlands, and residential areas.Back to top


Food OmnivoreInsects, fruit, seeds, occasional birds' eggs, and lizards.Back to top


Nest Placement

Nest Cavity

Nest Description

Hole in saguaro cactus or tree. Cavity unlined.

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size:3-6 eggs
Number of Broods:1-3 broods
Egg Length:0.9-1.1 in (2.29-2.74 cm)
Egg Width:0.7-0.8 in (1.66-2.01 cm)
Incubation Period:13-14 days
Egg Description:White.
Condition at Hatching:Naked and helpless.
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Behavior Bark ForagerGleans insects from bark, probes into holes and dead wood, takes food from ground.Back to top


Conservation Low ConcernGila Woodpecker populations declined by about 49% between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 1.6. million birds, with 28% living in the U.S., and 72% in Mexico. The species rates a 10 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and is not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. These woodpeckers are threatened by human development of Sonoran Desert and by competition for nest sites with European Starlings.Back to top


Edwards, Holly H. and Gary D. Schnell. (2000). Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

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.

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