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Of the typical woodpeckers of the U.S. and Canada, the Arizona Woodpecker is the only species that is brown and white and not black and white. It lives in montane oak or pine-oak forests and associated woodlands near streams or rivers. Only a very small portion of the species largely Mexican range is within the U.S. The species has been little-studied so that its population dynamics and threats are not well understood.
Upperparts are solid brown, including head, except for white neck patch and a small white streak above the eye. Males also have a small red patch on the rear sides of the head. Underparts with varying degrees of brown spotting and streaking. Tail is dark brown-black with some white barring on the outer feathers. The most similar birds in their range, Hairy and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, are black and white. The Hairy Woodpecker also has a white patch on its back and solid white underparts.
Found in mid-elevation pine-oak woodland in a narrow strip from southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico south along the Sierra Madre Occidental to the Mexican state of Jalisco and then bending eastward along the Mexican plateau to the state of Michoacan. Population is not monitored but there is no evidence for a decline, although the northwestern Mexican range has a high rate of rural population growth.
Habitat usually consists of oak or pine-oak woodlands and sycamore-walnut riparian areas. Competition with the Hairy Woodpecker, which nest in higher elevation forests, and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, which nest in lower elevation forests, may restrict the Arizona Woodpecker to this narrow elevational range. Arizona Woodpeckers often nest in cavities of riparian Arizona walnuts or Arizona sycamores, which are easier to excavate than oaks. A small portion of the population in southeastern Arizona may migrate down slope in the winter to oak woodlands or the mouths of canyons because of food shortage. Forages on oaks for insects and their larvae, especially beetles, by probing or prying and flaking off bark.
Much of the suitable habitat in Mexico is being fragmented by rural development and logging. Because Arizona Woodpeckers rely on sycamores, and sycamore seedlings require a high water table for germination, overdraft of groundwater and heavy grazing may be detrimental to Arizona Woodpecker populations.
The Arizona Woodpecker has not been afforded any special conservation status at the state or federal level. Much of the species habitat in the U.S. portion of its range is publicly owned. Arizona Partners In Flight has developed a set of recommendations for focal bird species of the oak and pine-oak habitats in the Mexican Highlands area which will likely benefit Arizona Woodpecker populations. (http://www.blm.gov/wildlife/plan/pl_az_10.pdf)
What Can You Do?
Audubon's Important Bird Area program is a vital tool for the conservation of Arizona Woodpeckers as well as other species. To learn more about the Important Bird Areas programs in Arizona and New Mexico where Arizona Woodpeckers are found and how you can help visit: http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/
CIPAMEX, Audubon's BirdLife International partner in Mexico, also has an Important Bird Areas program that is working to protect habitat for Arizona Woodpeckers and many other species. To learn more about Mexico's Important Bird Areas program and how you can help visit: http://184.108.40.206/wwwcampus/cipamex/
Johnson, R. R., L. T. Haight, and J. D. Ligon. 1999. Arizona Woodpecker (Picoides arizonae). In The Birds of North America, No. 474 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.