Black-backed woodpecker

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Black-backed woodpecker
Picoides arcticus -Brunswick, Vermont, USA -male-8.jpg
Male in Brunswick, Vermont, United States
Picoides arcticus FM2.jpg
Female in Quebec, Canada
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Piciformes
Family: Picidae
Genus: Picoides
P. arcticus
Binomial name
Picoides arcticus
(Swainson, 1832)
Picoides arcticus distr.png
Range of P. arcticus      Resident range     Occasional winter range

The black-backed woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) also known as the Arctic three-toed woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker (23 cm (9.1 in) long) inhabiting the forests of North America.


The plumage of adults is black on the head, back, wings and rump. They are white from the throat to the belly; the flanks are white with black bars. Their tail is black with white outer feathers. There is an element of sexual dimorphism in the plumage, with the adult male possessing a yellow cap. Unlike all other woodpeckers except the related American and Eurasian three-toed woodpeckers, this species has three-toed feet.

Habitat and breeding[edit]

Their breeding range is boreal forest across Canada, Alaska, the north-western United States, as well as northern Wisconsin,[2] Minnesota,[3] and Upper Michigan.[4] In particular the species is a burnt-forest specialist, feeding on the outbreaks of wood-boring beetles that feed on recently burnt trees.[5] The most important wood boring beetles taken are in the families Cerambycidae and Buprestidae, along with engraver beetles and Mountain pine beetle. Most food is obtained by pecking, a smaller proportion is obtained by gleaning off branches. Black-backed woodpeckers are generally non-migratory but historically have undertaken intermittent irruptions.

Nest excavation occurs in April and May; a fresh nest is drilled each year into the sapwood of dead trees. Abandoned nests are used by other species of bird to nest in. The female lays three or four eggs, and incubation duties are shared between both parents, although the male alone incubates during the night. Upon hatching the altricial chicks are brooded until the nestling phase. Both parents feed the chicks, which take about 24 days to fledge.


The call note of the black-backed woodpecker is a single, sharp pik, and is lower pitched than the call of the American three-toed woodpecker.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Picoides arcticus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ ebird. "eBird Range Map--Black-backed Woodpecker". Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  3. ^ "Minnesota Breeding Bird Map List: Minnesota DNR". Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  4. ^ "TaxonomicListing". Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  5. ^ Woodpecker knows
  • Dixon, Rita D., and Victoria A. Saab. (2000). Black-backed woodpecker (Picoides arcticus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:
  • National Geographic's Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Third Edition; Describes call note

External links[edit]

Data related to Picoides arcticus at Wikispecies