Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus)


French: Pic à dos noir German: Schwarzrückenspecht Spanish: Pico ártico

Picus (Apternus) arcticus


, 1832,

near the sources of the Athabasca River, eastern slope of the Rockies


Closely related to P. tridactylus and P. funebris; one molecular phylogeny suggested sister relationship with former#R. Monotypic.


W & C Alaska E through C Canada (N to area W of Great Bear Lake, C Manitoba and N Ontario) to S Labrador and Newfoundland, and S, discontinuously in W, to California and W Nevada (Sierra Nevada), Wyoming, SC Saskatchewan and NE Minnesota, and in E to N Michigan, SE Ontario, New York and Nova Scotia.

Descriptive notes

23–25 cm; 61–88 g. Male has white rear part of nasal tufts, yellow to golden-yellow forecrown, white lores and band running back below ear-coverts to neck side,... read more


Very distinctive short, high-pitched double click; peculiar, long grating snarl, varying in pitch... read more


N and montane coniferous forest, at least locally with strong predilection for old growth. Burned... read more

Food and feeding

Largely wood-boring beetle larvae, particularly the large grubs of white-spotted sawyer (Monochamus scutellatus), an insect... read more


Laying from end Apr, mostly mid-May to mid Jun, but nest excavation can commence in late Mar. Courtship includes flutter-aerial display,... read more


Resident; subject to irregular dismigration and eruptive movements, possibly caused by regional... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Generally uncommon, e.g. estimated population of just 200 individuals in N Wisconsin within potential habitat estimated at 198,097 ha... read more

Recommended citation

Winkler, H., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus). 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 7 December 2019).