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The Ivory Bill·Birds·Cavity Makers

American Three-toed Woodpeckers, Picoides dorsalis

American three-toed woodpeckers foraging on a tree trunk
American Three-toed Woodpeckers breed in coniferous forests in North America, particularly in the boreal forests of Canada and the northern United States, from late May to July.

American Three-toed Woodpeckers are commonly found in mature spruce and pine forests, which are habitats characterized by dense stands of conifers and a high prevalence of dead or dying trees where insects are abundant during the breeding season.

They forage on dead or dying trees, particularly those affected by bark beetle infestations, for beetle larvae, ants, and other tree-dwelling invertebrates. They may also feed on spiders, wasps, and occasionally seeds or fruits.

American Three-toed Woodpeckers have specific adaptations such as their three-toed feet, which provide better grip on tree trunks, and their strong, chisel-like bills, which allow them to excavate into hard wood to access beetle larvae and other insects.

Courtship involves a combination of drumming displays, calls, and mutual tapping on trees by both sexes. Males perform territorial drumming to attract females and may also engage in aerial displays and ritualized movements near potential nesting sites.

Males and females chip out cavities in dead or dying conifer trees, ranging from 2 to 15 meters above ground, in mature forest stands or areas affected by insect infestations. Wood chips left at the bottom, providing a soft bed for the eggs.

Egg laying typically begins in late May to early June, with the female laying 3 to 4 eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs for about 12 to 14 days. After hatching, both parents feed the chicks with regurgitated insects and other invertebrates.

Chicks learn to forage by observing and following adult birds. As they develop, they begin to peck at tree bark and forage for insects more independently. They are vulnerable to predation by snakes, mammals, and birds of prey.

Chick fledging occurs about 22 to 26 days after hatching. Adults continue to guide and feed the fledglings for several weeks, during which the young woodpeckers learn to forage more effectively and expand their diet to include a wider variety of insects and other invertebrates.

American Three-toed Woodpeckers are not considered long-distance migrants. They exhibit some seasonal movements, generally moving to lower elevations or more southerly locations within their range during the winter months.

Wintering habitats include mature coniferous forests, particularly those affected by insect infestations where beetle larvae and other insects remain available. They forage for tree-dwelling insects, beetle larvae, and occasionally seeds during the winter.

American Three-toed Woodpeckers typically leave their wintering grounds and return to their breeding territories by late April to early May, coinciding with the onset of the breeding season.