Friday, December 12, 2014

Arizona Woodpecker

It's not difficult to find a woodpecker anywhere in the United States. They are widespread throughout North America, including the sapsuckers and flickers, which are also in the woodpecker family.

Uniquely though, the Arizona Woodpecker is much rarer. Barely reaching into Arizona from Mexico, you'll need to look a little harder to find the Arizona Woodpecker.

A good place to start your search is far southern Arizona at the higher elevations. A pine/oak forest with dead trees is a perfect spot to look. Woodpeckers need dead trees to supply the insect food they need. Insects and invertebrates hide under dead tree bark.

You might find an Arizona Woodpecker looking right back at you, too.

Bracing herself with stiff tail feathers, this female Arizona Woodpecker was searching with intense concentration. The image may seem to be sideways, but in fact she is hanging below the branch looking upward.  Upside down is no problem for a woodpecker.  With large feet and sharp claws she forages with ease.

Both sexes are similar in size and shape, but there is a small red patch on the back of the male's head.

Arizona Woodpeckers are not significantly different from many other species of woodpeckers with the obvious exception...they are brown and white rather than black and white. They stand out immediately for that one distinction alone.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      This looks to be a first-year juvenile. Adult-like in many ways...she just doesn't appear to be fully mature yet.

It takes a bit more effort to discover an Arizona Woodpecker...rare to the United States as they are, but somehow worth it.

There are 22 species of woodpeckers. I haven't seen them all yet, but therein lies one of the joys of birding...the search.


Credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
Credit: Sibley's Guide to Birds