Gila Woodpecker

Melanerpes uropygialis

Melanerpes uropygialis (female) photo © by Michael Plagens

Photo of a female from along the New River, Maricopa Co., USA. 25 Nov. 2018.

Photo copyright by Mike Plagens

A Saguaro Boot, photo by Michael Plagens

These adaptable woodpeckers can nest in urban trees such as fan palms and chinaberry. Their most usual nest hole in the Sonoran Desert is excavated into the main trunk or a side branch of the Saguaro Cactus. After a hole is made the cactus forms a tough callous thereby creating a durable and dry nest hole. Years after a saguaro has died and rotted away these old nest holes remain and are known as 'Saguaro Boots' because there shape resemble the footwear.

Besides insect larvae extracted from dead or dying trees, these birds also eat a lot of fruit such as ripe saguaro fruit. They may even resort to flycatching. As shown above they also visit hummingbird feeders.

Melanerpes uropygialis (male) photo © by Michael Plagens

In town the males seem to appreciate the louder-than-usual noise that can be generated by tapping on metal objects such as roof flashing or light covers.

Year-round Resident - No Migration

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More Information:

Sonoran Desert Field Guide
Sonoran Desert Places
Sonoran Desert Naturalist Home Page

Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 19 May 2009,
updated 27 April 2019.