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Black-backed Woodpecker Picoides arcticus


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Black-backed Woodpecker, male
credit: USNPS U.S. National Park Service,Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, Alaska

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Picidae, Woodpeckers view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Has mostly black upperparts, including tail, but note subtle pale barring on flight feathers. Head has yellow crown and bold white facial stripe. Throat and underparts are white, apart from dark barring on flanks. ADULT FEMALE Similar, but crown is black. JUVENILE Similar to respective sex adult, although duller and female has a few yellow crown feathers.

Dimensions Length: 9" (23 cm)

Habitat Widespread, but never common, favoring old-growth pine and spruce forests, but also visiting burned areas with standing trees to feed.

Observation Tips Unobtrusive and easily overlooked. Presence sometimes detected by drumming or discovery of stripped, fallen bark at base of tree.

Range Great Lakes, Northwest, Eastern Canada, Alaska, California, Rocky Mountains, Western Canada, Mid-Atlantic, Plains, New England

Voice Utters a chattering chik call, sharper than that of American Three-toed.

Discussion Similar to American Three-toed Woodpecker. Three-toed. Separable using plumage details and (with practice) call, although not especially vocal. Drumming is loud and carries far. Feeds mainly on wood-boring beetles, by drilling and bark-stripping. Sexes are separable with care.