Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
STATUS: Locally common in western coniferous forests; rare in east.
HABITAT: Primarily inhabits coniferous forests of the West, especially where fires have left large stands of dead trees. Also occasionally inhabits conifer stands in the Northeast.
SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Dead trees for cavity nests.
NEST: Excavates nest cavities each year in dead trees or in dead limbs with decayed heartwood in live trees. Usually locates nest holes 5 to 12 feet above ground in pine, aspen, spruce, and cedar.
FOOD: Feeds by probing and drilling for wood-boring larvae of moths and beetles (probably one of the most important birds in combating forest insect pests in the western United States). In Colorado, consumes spruce beetles for 65 percent of its annual diet and 99 percent of its winter diet. Also eats ants, wood-boring larvae, caterpillars, fruits, mast, and cambium.
REFERENCES: Beal and McAtee 1912, Bent 1939, DeGraff et al. 1980, Jackman and Scott 1975, Johnsgard 1979, Koplin 1972, Massey and Wygant 1973, Thomas et al. 1979.