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Kidadl Team

SEPTEMBER 06, 2021

American Three-Toed Woodpecker: 17 Facts You Won’t Believe

The American Three-toed woodpecker facts include interesting information about these cavity nesters.

The American Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis) is one of the few woodpecker species with a breeding population in the northernmost regions of North America, with its distribution across the western US, Alaska, and Canada. It was considered the same as the Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker and resembled a similar species known as the Black-backed Woodpecker.

These North American birds live in boreal or coniferous forests usually among burned, swampy, or logged regions with dead trees consisting of fir or spruce trees. Sometimes, they are also found in mixed deciduous forest regions with trees such as tamarack, aspen, pine, and willow. Foraging is common among dead or live conifers and their diet consists of insects, especially bark beetles, wood-boring beetle larvae, and caterpillars. Sometimes, they may also feed on berries, fruits, or sap.

During the breeding season, these birds live in pairs, and nesting is observed in tree cavities in dead or live trees. Both the male and female share responsibilities of caring for the young. Although this bird is a permanent resident, south or downslope migration during the winter is observed among the populations living in northern Canada.

If you find woodpeckers interesting, take a look at the Ivory-billed Woodpecker and the Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

American Three-Toed Woodpecker Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an American Three-toed Woodpecker?

The American Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis) is a species of North American bird.

What class of animal does the American Three-toed Woodpecker belong to?

These birds belong to the class of Aves under the order of Piciformes, family Picidae, and genus Picoides.

How many American Three-toed Woodpeckers are there in the world?

The exact population numbers of these bird species are unknown, but the range of their populations is not threatened and found across northern America.

Where does the American Three-toed Woodpecker live?

The American Three-toed Woodpecker range map is found in North America, with the majority of its range in Alaska, the western United States, and Canada.

What is an American Three-toed Woodpecker habitat?

The range of these birds is spotted mainly in a coniferous forest habitat with spruce or fir trees and also the Rocky Mountains. They prefer living in areas affected by floods, fires, or wind storms which are burned, logged, or swampy, usually among dead trees infested with wood-boring insects such as the spruce bark beetle. Their population is also found in mixed deciduous tree regions such as tamarack, pine, aspen, and willow.

Who does the American Three-toed Woodpecker live with?

These birds are usually solitary. However, during the breeding season, they live and forage in pairs, and both parents care for the young after they are born.

How long does an American Three-toed Woodpecker live?

This bird species has a lifespan of around six years.

How do they reproduce?

The breeding season of this species is observed between June and July with only one brood each year. These birds form monogamous breeding pairs and may stay together through more than one season as well. The male and female excavate for nesting sites together and begin by constructing a nest cavity in dead, or sometimes live, trees, which is why they prefer living in forests with wood-boring insects such as the Spruce Bark Beetle. The American Three-toed Woodpecker nest is placed around 5-15 in (12.7-38.1 cm) above the ground, and the inside is lined with wood chips to cushion the eggs. The female lays around three to seven white eggs, most commonly four, and both the parents take turns to incubate them for around 12- 14 days. After the hatching, both parents share the responsibility of feeding and caring for the young. Nestlings leave the nest after 22-23 days, and sometimes around four to eight weeks.

What is their conservation status?

The American Three-toed Woodpecker is not a threatened species and has been given the conservation status of Least Concern by the IUCN.

American Three-Toed Woodpecker Fun Facts 

What does the American Three-toed Woodpecker look like?

The description of these woodpeckers has a striking resemblance to, and at one point was considered the same as, the Black-backed Woodpecker because of the yellow crown, black-white coloration, and barred flanks. However, they are differentiated because the Black-backed Woodpecker is slightly bigger with a slightly different pattern on the back. These birds have ebony black wings and tails, a white throat, neck, breast, and underparts with gray-white barred flanks and backs. As their name suggests, they have three toes on gray-black feet and white, speckled foreheads with a defined yellow crown, black beak, and white mustache stripe.

These woodpeckers are mostly black, white, and gray with a prominent yellow patch on the crown.
*We've been unable to source an image of American Three-toed Woodpecker and have used an image of Pileated Woodpecker instead. If you are able to provide us with a royalty-free image of American Three-toed Woodpecker, we would be happy to credit you. Please contact us at [email protected].

How cute are they?

These woodpeckers have a fuzzy appearance with a bright yellow crown on their monochrome bodies, which makes them look absolutely adorable.

How do they communicate?

Although their communication patterns are unknown, these woodpeckers have a soft 'pik pik' call, similar to that of the Downy Woodpecker.

How big is the American Three-toed Woodpecker?

This bird species is around 8-9 in (20.32- 22.86 cm) long, which is around the same size as the Red-bellied Woodpecker. They have a wingspan of around 15 in (38.1 cm), which is around the same length as the White-necked Raven.

How fast can an American Three-toed Woodpecker fly?

The flight speed of this species is unknown, but most woodpeckers have undulating flight patterns with a few quick wing flaps followed by a glide with their wings tucked sideways instead of outwards like most birds.

How much does an American Three-toed Woodpecker weigh?

This bird weighs around 0.12 lb (55 g), which is the same weight as the Inca Dove.

What are the male and female names of the species?

The male and female birds do not have different names.

What would you call a baby American Three-toed Woodpecker?

The newly hatched baby can be called a chick, juvenile, nestling, hatchling, or fledgling.

What do they eat?

These black-white bird species forages in dead-tree coniferous forests and their diet majorly consists of insects, caterpillars, and larvae of beetles.

Are they dangerous?

No, these birds are harmless to humans as well as other animals.

Would they make a good pet?

These woodpeckers are wild birds and prefer living in swampy, burned, or logged coniferous forests or mountains. As a result, keeping them as pets would not be ideal.

Did you know...

The Western Bluebird and Tree Swallows are common cavity nesters of abandoned woodpecker holes.

Why is it called Three-toed Woodpecker?

Woodpeckers get their name from the fact that they drill into tree barks when excavating a nesting site. This species gets its name because instead of four like most birds, they have three toes on each foot.

Do American Three-toed Woodpeckers migrate?

Migration is observed among these birds only during the winter. The breeding populations in the extreme northern or high-mountain regions migrate south or downslope in the cold winter, usually only short distances. Residents of Alaska and Canada move to the northern United States, while the western US population moves towards the mountains of New Mexico and Arizona.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these Red-headed Woodpecker facts and Pileated Woodpecker facts for kids

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Three-toed Woodpecker coloring pages.

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