Last updates


Legal issues

Gila Woodpecker
Melanerpes uropygialis

Piciforme Order –Picidae Family

Length : 24 cm
Wingspan : 41 cm
Weight : 51-79 g

LONGEVITY: Up to 7 years

Gila Woodpecker has black and white barred back, rump and central and undertail feathers. Face, neck and breast are pale brownish. We can see yellow tinge on centre belly.
Adult male has red patch on the top of head, and whitish forehead. Bill is pointed, black or darkish. Eyes are dark red. Legs and feet are brownish green or bluish.
Female lacks red cap. It has entirely brown head.
Juvenile is similar but duller than adults.

Fr: Pic des Saguaros
All : Gilaspecht
Esp : Carpintero del Gila
Ital : Picchio di Gila
Nd : Cactusspecht
Sd : Kaktusspett

Photographs by Tom Grey
Tom Grey's Bird Pictures

Photographs by Pete Moulton
Pete Moulton Photography

Text by Nicole Bouglouan

Sources :

HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD Vol. 7 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliott-Jordi Sargatal – Lynx Edicions – ISBN: 8487334377

FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA - National Geographic Society - ISBN: 0792274512

Avibase (Lepage Denis)

All About Birds (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

What Bird-The ultimate Bird Guide (Mitchell Waite)

Wikipedia (Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia)


Home page

Page Piciforme Order

Summary cards

Gila Woodpecker’s calls include a rolling “churr”, and a loud and high pitched “yip” given in series. It also drums, and taps loudly on metal objects as a territorial call.

Gila Woodpecker inhabits towns, scrub deserts with large cacti or trees for nesting, (especially Saguaro cactus – Carnegiea gigantea – Cereus giganteus), streamside woods, dry subtropical forests and riparian woodlands.

Gila Woodpecker is year round resident of southern and western Arizona. It is found in Sonoran Desert regions of the extreme south-western United States and northern Mexico.

Gila Woodpecker is a noisy and very conspicuous bird. This woodpecker goes hitching its way up the sides of the giant cactus, and gives strident calls when it reaches the top. It also taps on metallic objects to establish territory. 
It lives in nest cavities, and may occupy the same nesting hole for more than one season, before nest is occupied by other birds or snakes.
To feed, Gila Woodpecker gleans insects from bark crevices, seeking them among the irregularities of tree bark. It probes into holes and dead tree-trunks, and also takes food on the ground.
Gila Woodpeckers have been observed storing acorns. They pick acorns from oaks, and then, they fly and store them in a palm tree, among the fibres at the base of cut and broken fronds. It may store about 8 acorns in 30 minutes.

Gila Woodpecker shows conspicuous white wing patches in flight. 

Gila Woodpecker’s nest is excavated in saguaros cacti or trees. Nest is unlined.

Female lays 3 to 5 white eggs. Incubation lasts about 12 to 14 days, shared by both parents. Chicks hatch altricial, and are fed by both adults, for long time after fledging.
This species produces 2 to 3 clutches if food resources are abundant. 

Gila Woodpecker feeds on cactus fruits, berries, nuts and many other items in addition to insects. It visits hummingbird feeders and steal dog food. It may occasionally eat bird’s eggs and lizards.

Populations of Gila Woodpeckers are threatened by human development of Sonoran Desert, and by competition for nest cavities with European Starlings.