Sonoran Desert Naturalist >>> Field Guide >>> Desert Birds >>> Gila Woodpecker

Gila Woodpecker

Melanerpes uropygialis

Photo hsted at Wikimedia

Photo of a female Gila by ‘Evil Saltine’ in Arizona, USA. Hosted at Wikimedia. The male Gila Woodpecker differs from the female by having a smallish red cap.

Photo copyright by Mike Plagens

A Saguaro Boot, photo by Michael Plagens

These adaptible woodpeckers can nest in urban trees such as fan palms and china berry. Their most usual nest hole in the Sonoran Desert is excavated into the main trunk or a side branch of the 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 footware.

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.

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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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2009