This species is of moderate conservation importance, primarily because of its very limited range and small overall population in the southwestern United States. In southeastern Arizona, as well as throughout its relatively small range in western Mexico, this woodpecker is dependent on healthy oak and riparian forests. Being one of the primary cavity nesters in this area, it is responsible for providing nest sites for a large number of additional species. Its precise habitat and area requirements and how these might vary across its range are very poorly known.
Male: The only solid brown-backed woodpecker in the United States, underparts are white but heavily spotted and barred with brown. Forehead and crown are brown, face is white with a large, brown cheek patch, creating a white eyebrow, a white line from the bill to the neck, and a large, white neck patch. Red patch on hindcrown is distinct
Female: Similar to male, but no red patch on hindcrown.
Juvenile: Similar to adults, but may show red on top of crown.
Rattle call: A loud, long, harsh call, usually 15 notes, and a common call in all disturbance situations. Given regularly by member of mated pair, with mate answering with a kweek or rattle call.
Kweek call: Similar to the equivalent call of Hairy and White-headed Woodpeckers. Loud, mainly in series but also single notes; mostly be female answering drumming or rattle call.
Tuk-Tuk-Tuk call: Given by juveniles as parents arrive with food.
Several other calls have been observed.
Often forages near the ground, flying from higher in tree to base of next tree and works up trunk and onto smaller branches. Works rapidly and then moves to next tree. Unlikely to hammer when feeding, instead climbing trunks of oaks prying, probing and flaking off bark, and then foraging on exposed insects.
Poorly known, but seems to consist of larvae and adult insects, especially beetle larvae, fruits, and acorns.
Behavior and displays
Nest Site: Cavities are usually excavated in dead wood in evergreen oaks, sycamores, maples and cottonwoods; often riparian walnuts, occasionally in agave stalk.
Height: Usually 12-20 feet (3.5-6 meters), ranges from 7-50 feet (2-15 meters) above the ground.
Nest: Male and possibly female excavate a nest cavity about 12 inches (30 cm) deep, which is unlined.
Eggs: 2-4 white eggs are laid, probably 1 per day.
Incubation period: Incubation is almost continuous, performed by both sexes, and thought to last 14 days.
Nestling period: Young are altricial at hatching, and are brooded almost continuously by one or the other parent for several days; feedings are frequent. By day 11 chicks are alert and can hold their heads up; by day 18 the chick can run and jump about.
Fledgling period: Nestlings typically leave the nest at 24-27 days, at which time they are fully feathered. Parents bring food to newly fledged young, which follow parents into July; families then break up.
Broods: No information, possibly single brooded.
Cowbird Parasitism: Not known to occur.