Deep Dive: Black-backed Woodpeckers

by Chris Anderson on February 13, 2023
Black-backed woodpeckers are found in boreal and coniferous forests that experience forest fires. Get a look at them here!1&2 One of their largest sources of prey is the wood-boring beetle, which is attracted to conifers post-fire. Black-backed woodpeckers will both use these trees to nest and feed on the wood-boring beetles inside them.2
These woodpeckers stand about 9 inches tall, weigh only 2–3 ounces, and have a wingspan of around 16 inches. The feathers on their backs are black and their fronts have black and white barring. Male black-backed woodpeckers will have a patch of yellow on their heads, while females don’t.3
These birds can be found in many places throughout Canada and the US but are still considered rare birds. They’re non-migratory but sometimes will irrupt in big groups to new habitats.1
Black-backed woodpeckers are monogamous and when they reproduce, females usually lay 3–4 eggs. Both males and females incubate the eggs for about two weeks.1

Aside from the wood-boring beetles, they’ll also feast on other insects like weevils and ants, as well as berries, nuts, and acorns.1&2 They have special adaptations that help them peck into trees. For example, their skull and ribcage can withstand the amount of force it takes to peck into a tree, and they have the most shock-absorbent skulls in their genus!2
Have you tried our Sherlock Bones pellet dissection activity yet?

We have our online Sherlock Bones mystery, which is a virtual dissection experience, but we also have a Sherlock Bones pellet pack that you can do as a hands-on activity!
It comes with an owl pellet, dissection tools, and a 24-page guide to help you learn! You can buy a one-pack, a three-pack, or a ten-pack! 

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