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Golden-fronted Woodpecker Life History


Open Woodlands

Across its large range, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers occupy many kinds of habitats. In the United States they live in dry, semi-open woodlands and brushlands in Texas and southwestern Oklahoma. Their habitats include mesquite bosques, oak-juniper woodlands and savannas, riparian forests with cottonwoods, and urban and suburban parks. In addition, look for them among native plants including pecan, soapberry, willow, hackberry, persimmon, agarita, prickly pear, and tasajillo.

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InsectsGolden-fronted Woodpeckers are omnivorous, eating insects and larvae, spiders, fruits, and nuts, much like their relatives the Red-bellied and Gila Woodpeckers. They also eat ants, beetles, grasshoppers, cicadas, praying mantises, walking sticks, moths, small lizards, and possibly birds’ eggs. In the tropics, they consume a great variety of small fruits. In Texas, they eat acorns, fruits of prickly pear cactus, sumac, hackberry, soapberry, wolfberry, greenbrier, lotebush, agarita, and persimmon. They forage mostly below 20 feet on larger limbs and trunks, by gleaning (picking insects from vegetation), pecking, and probing, rarely by excavation. They frequently feed on the ground, especially in winter, and occasionally fly out to catch insects. Golden-fronted Woodpeckers regularly visit backyard feeders, where they eat pecans, peanuts, bananas, citrus fruits, sunflower seeds, and corn.Back to top


Nest Placement

CavityBoth male and female excavate a cavity, usually 6–20 feet up in mesquite, pecan, oak, hackberry, cottonwood, Mexican ash, or cedar elm. Some have nested in utility poles and fence posts.

Nest Description

The average cavity measures about 12.5 inches deep, with an entrance hole about 2 inches in diameter. The bottom of the cavity is lined with wood chips.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:4-7 eggs
Number of Broods:1-2 broods
Egg Length:0.9-1.1 in (2.39-2.88 cm)
Egg Width:0.7-0.8 in (1.87-2.06 cm)
Incubation Period:12-14 days
Nestling Period:30-32 days
Egg Description:


Condition at Hatching:Naked and helpless with eyes closed.
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Bark ForagerGolden-fronted Woodpeckers are socially monogamous and stay together year-round. Pairs begin or renew bonds in early spring, with courtship displays. They lower their heads and raise their crowns or swing their heads and point their bills in synchrony. Similar displays can occur between males disputing territory. Drumming and calling are most frequent in the early part of the nesting season and probably serve to mark territory. Mated pairs also perform ritualized tapping displays, mostly around nest sites. Unlike their closest relatives, both male and female Golden-fronted Woodpeckers defend their territories against either sex, sometimes chasing them by flying to the territory boundary. Where their ranges meet, Golden-fronted and Red-bellied Woodpeckers maintain non-overlapping territories, and hybrids have been recorded. After nesting, most do not maintain territories, but the smaller Red-headed Woodpecker sometimes drives them out of its winter territories.Back to top


Low Concern

Golden-fronted Woodpecker populations remained stable or slightly declining from 1966 to 2019, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 5.3 million and rates the species an 8 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of low conservation concern. Golden-fronted Woodpecker populations may benefit from the proliferation of mesquite on rangeland. The species appears to adapt well to some forms of habitat modification but is still vulnerable to large-scale loss of habitat.

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Husak, Michael S. and Terry C. Maxwell. (1998). Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Melanerpes aurifrons), 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. (2020). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2020. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2020.

Partners in Flight (2019). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2019.

Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2019). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2019. Version 2.07.2019. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

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

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