Woodpeckers in Arizona

Arizona, with its deserts, extensive forests, and woodlands, is home to as many as twelve species of woodpeckers. This is quite a significant number, considering North America has only 22 species. 

The red-naped sapsucker and the ladder-backed woodpecker inhabit Southern Arizona. The latter is also known as the cactus woodpecker because it prefers to live in thorn forests and deserts where cacti grow. Northern Arizona is home to the hairy woodpecker, which resembles the downy woodpecker, the smallest species (6.1 inches) in the state and North America.

One notable species found in Arizona is the Gila woodpecker, which is quite common in Southern Arizona but almost nonexistent in any other state. This is because it can survive in desert habitats without trees, as it makes its nest in saguaro cacti. The same can be said for the gilded flicker, which is common in most parts of Arizona but occurs only in a few other states.

The Arizona woodpecker is only found in a small range in the southern corner of Arizona and in New Mexico. The best time to see them is during their breeding season, from March to May.

Woodpeckers in Arizona (AZ)

Different Types of Woodpeckers Found in Arizona

Woodpecker NameIdentifying FeatureWhere They Are Found in Arizona
Acorn WoodpeckerRed cap and white faceOak woodlands and foothill forests
Downy WoodpeckerSmall size, white bellyVarious wooded habitats, including gardens
Hairy WoodpeckerSimilar to Downy but largerForested areas and wooded parks
Northern FlickerSpotted bellyOpen woodlands, fields, and urban areas
Red-naped SapsuckerRed cap, nape, and throatConiferous and mixed woodlands
Ladder-backed WoodpeckerLadder-like markingsDesert scrub and arid habitats
Gila WoodpeckerBrown face with black-and-white barring on the wingsSonoran and Mojave deserts
Gilded FlickerYellow underwingsSonoran and Mojave deserts
Williamson’s SapsuckerYellow belly and white wing patchConiferous forests in mountains
Arizona WoodpeckerGrayish-brown with white spotsOak and pine woodlands
Lewis’s WoodpeckerPink belly and greenish backPonderosa pine forests and open woodlands
American Three-toed WoodpeckerBlack with white barring and three toesConiferous forests in higher elevations

The American three-toed woodpecker is relatively rare in the state, found only in a thin strip in Central Arizona during the winter. The Lewis’s woodpecker is another uncommon species with unpredictable populations in the state. This is because they tend to travel around looking for food after their breeding season. 


Q. Are woodpeckers protected in Arizona?

Ans. Yes, woodpeckers, being migratory, nongame birds, are protected by both the state and federal wildlife departments in Arizona and should not be harmed. However, since many people find the damage caused by them to the structures of their homes quite expensive to repair and unpleasant to look at, they can keep the birds away by adopting preventive measures.

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