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The Ivory Bill·Birds·Cavity Makers

Black-backed Woodpeckers, Picoides arcticus

Black-backed woodpecker pair on a tree trunk in a coniferous forest

Black-backed Woodpeckers are woodpeckers that breed in boreal forests and recently burned areas in North America from May to July.

Black-backed Woodpeckers are commonly found in burned coniferous forests and mature boreal forests, which are habitats characterized by standing dead trees where wood-boring beetles and other insects are abundant during the breeding season.

They forage in burned forests, coniferous forests, and on dead trees for wood-boring beetle larvae, ants, and other insects. They may also feed on spiders and other small invertebrates.

Black-backed Woodpeckers have a distinctive foraging behavior, using their strong bills to flake bark off trees and expose insect larvae underneath. They are highly adapted to exploiting post-fire habitats where beetle infestations are common.

Courtship involves drumming displays by males to attract females. Both sexes engage in mutual preening and may perform display flights around nesting sites.

Males and females chip out tree cavities from 1 to 20 meters above ground in burned forests and mature coniferous forests. They often choose trees with softer wood, such as pines and spruces. They may use natural cavities in dead or decaying trees. The nest cavity is unlined and wood chips left at the bottom.

Egg laying typically begins in late May to early June, with the female laying 3 to 6 eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs for about 12 to 14 days. After hatching, both parents feed the chicks with insects and regurgitated food.

Chicks learn to forage by observing and following adult birds. They are vulnerable to predation by larger birds and mammals. As they develop, they begin to flake bark off trees and forage for insects more independently.

Chick fledging occurs about 24 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.

Black-backed Woodpeckers are generally non-migratory, but they may move locally in response to changes in food availability, particularly after forest fires.

Wintering habitats are the same as their breeding habitats, including boreal forests and recently burned areas. They forage for wood-boring beetle larvae, ants, and other insects during the winter.