Ladder-backed Woodpecker (Picoides scalaris) 7.25 inches long

Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Hereford, Arizona

This small, colorful woodpecker thrives in arid areas of the southwest, including parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Its small size enables it to live in the scrubby growth of generally dry washes, mesquite groves, and brushland. It eats mainly insects but in the winter is attracted to suet feeders as shown in the photo above. Male and female share black-and-white barred back and white cheek markings, outlined in black, but the male alone sports the red crown. The top of the head is black on the female. The pair often forages together with the male concentrating on large limbs and trunks while the female, who is smaller and has a smaller bill, searches nearby twigs and bushes. Pairs utilize a wide range of nesting sites including mesquite, willow, oak, yucca or agave, utility poles and fence posts. Both parents feed the young with insects brought to the nest. These birds are permanent residents in their range and seem to be maintaining their numbers adequately.


Alderfer, Jonathan (ed.). Field Guide to Birds: Arizona and New Mexico. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2006. This handy, pocket-size (4x6) guide includes most of the birds you're likely to see in Arizona. In addition to a photo, it includes information about behavior, habitat and specific local sites where you are likely to find the bird.

Corman, Troy E. and Cathryn Wise-Gervais (eds.) Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005.

Sibley, David Allen. The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.