Rare Earthtones Logo
Spacer Spacer
Center for Biological Diversity Home

GILA WOODPECKER } Melanerpes uropygialis

RANGE: Southwestern United States and Mexico

STATUS: In general, Gila woodpeckers are considered Common, but there is evidence of a population decline. They are Endangered in California and Imperiled in New Mexico.

THREATS: Habitat loss and degradation from urban development and agriculture, human disturbance, off-road vehicles, livestock trampling and grazing, fire in riparian habitats, and competition with exotic European starlings for nest cavities

The noisy Gila woodpecker excavates its own nest cavities in cottonwoods, saguaro cacti, and mesquite trees. In California the species survives in only scattered locations in mature cottonwood forests along the lower Colorado River. Gila woodpeckers are easily identified by their zebra-striped back and wings, grayish-tan head and breast, and the small red crown on the head of the males. White patches near the tips of the wings are prominent when they are in flight. These woodpeckers eat mainly insects, and to a lesser extent fruits, nuts and lizards; they will also prey on the eggs of smaller birds. Other desert birds, including tiny elf owls, use their abandoned nest holes.

Photo © Don Getty