American Three-toed Woodpecker

Picoides dorsalis Order: Piciformes Family: Picidae (Woodpeckers)
Picoides dorsalis Order: Piciformes Family: Picidae (Woodpeckers)

This species breeds farther north than any other American woodpecker species, exceeded in the world only by the Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker. This and the Black-backed Woodpecker capitalize on fires, forest disease outbreaks, and, especially, insect infestations to pig out on the resulting smorgasbord of grubs. During America’s devastating Dutch elm disease outbreak in the 1950s through ’70s, spread by a bark beetle, American Three-toed Woodpeckers ranged far further south than they had historically.

The lack of a fourth toe, found only in this species, the Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, and the Black-backed Woodpecker, allows these three species to lean back farther, as you can see in the photo. This probably contributes to the powerful blows these birds are capable of, hitting trees harder than any other woodpeckers.

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