Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

American Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis)

Following the taxonomy applied to HBW Alive, derived from the HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, this taxon is now lumped within Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus).


French: Pic à dos rayé German: Fichtenspecht Spanish: Pico Tridáctilo Americano
Other common names: White-backed Three-toed Woodpecker, Three-toed Woodpecker (with P. tridactylus)

Picoides dorsalis


, 1858,

Laramie Peak, Wyoming


Forms a superspecies with P. tridactylus, and commonly treated as conspecific; genetic evidence, however, coupled with geographical isolation and differences in plumage, indicate that the two are probably better considered separate species. Closely related also to P. arcticus, but probably less so to other congeners. Races intergrade. Labrador birds named as separate race labradorius, supposedly larger and darker with more barred flanks than bacatus, but differences thought not to be constant or significant, and new taxon subsequently abandoned by describer. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution

Descriptive notes

21–23 cm; male 50–64·5 g, female 47–59 g (fasciatus). Male has black forehead and fore lores mottled whitish, brass-yellow or pale lemon-... read more


Single high-pitched “kip” or “pwik”; short “kliklikliklikli”... read more


Mature boreal and montane conifer forests; usually in denser forest than that preferred by P.... read more

Food and feeding

Chiefly larvae and pupae of bark beetles (Scolytidae); present species is an important predator of spruce bark beetle (Dendroctonus... read more


Laying from mid-May to end Jun, occasionally to early Jul, but courtship activities start in second half Mar. Nest-hole excavated by both... read more


Largely resident, but often shifts to lower altitudes or moves short distances after breeding. E... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Not very common; numbers vary over years, but species can become locally common during insect outbreaks. Occurs in low densities, highest in burned... read more

Recommended citation

Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2018). American Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 16 December 2018).