Arizona Woodpecker

Dryobates arizonae
Range Map

The Arizona Woodpecker was formerly called the Strickland’s Woodpecker and the Brown-Backed Woodpecker. In 2000, taxonomists split the Arizona Woodpecker from the Strickland’s Woodpecker, which is now restricted to a small range in south-central Mexico.

The primary range for Arizona Woodpeckers is in the mountains of Western Mexico, but they are sometimes found in the Sky Island mountains of southern Arizona. These birds prefer pine-oak woodlands. 

When foraging, these birds behave similarly to Brown Creepers; starting at the base of the tree and working their way up, before flying off to the base of the next tree on the menu.

Some authorities continue to place this species in the genus Picoides. Today, science recognises two subspecies of Arizona Woodpecker:

  • D. a. arizonae lives in the mountains of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, and south to northeastern Mexico.
  • D. a. fraterculus lives in western Mexico, from southeastern Sinaloa to northern Colima, southern Jalisco, and Michoacán.

My only encounter with this species came in Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains of Arizona. Other than flickers, I’d never seen a brown-backed woodpecker before. So many species that I was more familiar with were predominantly black and white. These birds were milk-chocolate brown. I’ve read that Arizona Woodpeckers are very shy, especially during egg-laying time. I’d like to see more of them some day.

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