Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis)

Gila Woodpecker

[order] PICIFORMES | [family] Picidae | [latin] Melanerpes uropygialis | [UK] Gila Woodpecker | [FR] Pic de la Gila | [DE] Gilaspecht | [ES] Carpintero Desertico (Mex) | [NL] Gila-specht


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Melanerpes uropygialis NA, MA sw USA, Baja California, w Mexico
Melanerpes uropygialis brewsteri s Baja California (Mexico)
Melanerpes uropygialis cardonensis n Baja California (Mexico)
Melanerpes uropygialis fuscescens S Sonora, SW Chihuahua and N Sinaloa (nw Mexico)
Melanerpes uropygialis uropygialis sw USA to w Mexico

Physical charateristics

Male: Note the i round red cap. A “zebra-backed” woodpecker; in flight, shows a i white wing patch. Head and underparts gray-brown. b Female:
Similar, but without the red cap.

Listen to the sound of Gila Woodpecker

[audio: Woodpecker.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

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North America, Middle America : Southwest USA, Baja California, West Mexico


Desert washes, saguaros, river groves, cottonwoods, town
Generally in dry country, but requires suitable sites for nesting cavities: cottonwood groves along rivers, large mesquites or willows, palms, large cactus such as saguaro or cardon. Readily adapts to suburbs of southwestern cities. Also dry tropical for
est in Mexico.


Displays, used largely in aggression, include exaggerated bowing and head-swinging, accompanied by loud calls.
b Nest: Site is a cavity excavated in giant cactus or in tree (cottonwood, willow, or large mesquite), sometimes in palm trunk. Cavity usually 8-
30′ above ground. Both sexes take part in excavating. Cavity in giant cactus cannot be used for several months, as inner pulp of cactus must dry to solid casing around cavity; holes may be excavated one year, used the next. No nes
t material in cactus holes, only wood chips in tree holes.
b Eggs: 3-4, up to 6. White. Incubation is by both sexes, about 14 days.
b Young: Both parents feed young. Age at which young leave nest not well known, probably about 4 weeks; accompany parents for some time thereafter. 2-3 broods per year.

Feeding habits

Diet includes wide variety of insects, also cactus fruit, other wild and cultivated fruit, berries of shrubs and mistletoe, nectar from flowers, seeds, small lizards, earthworms, eggs and sometimes young of smaller birds.
b Behavior:
Forages on tree trunks and cacti, in outer branches of trees or shrubs, or on ground. When seeking insects on tree trunks, generally probes or gleans at surface, rarely excavating for food. Often drinks sugar-water from hummingbird feeders.


This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Gila Woodpecker status Least Concern


Resident, southwestern United States to central Mexico.
b Migration: Mostly permanent resident, but some move short distances north or uphill in winter. Also makes local movements, concentrating at sources of food when not nesting.

Distribution map

Gila Woodpecker distribution range map

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