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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Ladder-backed Woodpecker -- Picoides scalaris

RANGE: Resident from southern interior California, irregularly to western Oklahoma south through Texas and Mexico to Central America.

STATUS: Locally common.

HABITAT: Occurs in wooded canyons, cottonwood groves, riparian woodlands in deserts, and dense growth of cholla cactus, creosotebush, catclaw, and other low-growing plants on borders of deserts. Also found in post oak and mesquite woodlands, and on lower slopes of mountains up to 5,500 feet.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Trees or other structures large enough for cavity nests.

NEST: Excavates nest holes in a variety of trees (mesquite, screw bean, palo verde, hackberry, china tree, willow, cottonwood, walnut, and oak), usually 2 to 30 feet above ground. Sometimes uses saguaro, yucca stalks, telephone poles, and fence posts for nesting.

FOOD: Eats mostly insects, especially larvae of wood-boring beetles, caterpillars, and ants, but also eats fruit of various cacti.

REFERENCES: Bent 1939, Johnsgard 1979, Oberholser 1974a, Phillips et al. 1964.

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