American Three-Toed Woodpecker

Picoides dorsalis
Range Map

The American Three-Toed Woodpecker breeds farther north than any other woodpecker. Their native range is from Alaska and across most of Canada to the Atlantic coast. In the lower 48 states of the USA, they live from Idaho and western Montana south through the Rockies to parts of New Mexico and Arizona. Until recently, the Three-Toed Woodpecker was lumped with the Eurasian bird (Picoides tridactylus) of the same common name.

The best places to look for these woodpeckers is where there are many dead, dying, or bore-beetle infested trees stand. The Three-Toed Woodpecker is not known to forage on tree branches or fallen logs. Look for them on the trunks of standing trees.

This bird and the Black-Backed Woodpecker are the only two North American woodpeckers to have three (not four) toes. Both birds have yellow feathers on the head, but as its name implies, the Black-Backed Woodpecker has a solid black back, where the American Three-Toed Woodpecker has a white patch, blotched with dark spots..

Modern science recognises three subspecies of American Three-Toed Woodpecker:

  • P. d. fasciatus lives in Alaska, northwestern Canada and south to Oregon, Idaho, western Montana and northwestern Wyoming.
  • P. d. dorsalis lives in the Rocky Mountains from Montana to Nevada, Arizona and northwestern New Mexico.
  • P. d. bacatus lives in Canada in northern Manitoba and Ontario, Quebec, Labrador and Newfoundland, and south to the Great Lakes, New York, New Hampshire and Maine.

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