Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis)


French: Pic des saguaros German: Gilaspecht Spanish: Carpintero del Gila

Centurus uropygialis

S. F. Baird

, 1854,

Bill Williams Fork of Colorado River, Arizona, USA


Sometimes separated with other barred congeners in Centurus. In past considered conspecific with M. hypopolius. Interbreeds to limited extent with M. aurifrons in SW Mexico. Geographical races poorly differentiated owing to rather marked degree of individual variation; dark individuals from S Sonora, SW Chihuahua and N Sinaloa often separated as race fuscescens, but probably better treated as part of nominate or, since many appear indistinguishable from cardonensis, should perhaps be merged with latter; further study needed. In addition, described races albescens (from S Nevada and SE California to NW Sonora), tiburonensis (Tiburon I, off W Sonora) and sulfuriventer (from S of range, S from Sinaloa and Zacatecas) fall within range of variation of nominate, with which they are here synonymized. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. u. uropygialis (S. F. Baird, 1854) – SW USA from SE California and extreme S Nevada E to extreme SW New Mexico, and S in W Mexico to Jalisco and Aguascalientes, including Tiburón I#R.
  • M. u. cardonensis (Grinnell, 1927) – N & C Baja California.
  • M. u. brewsteri (Ridgway, 1911) – S Baja California (S from San Ignacio).
  • Descriptive notes

    21·5–24 cm; 51–81 g. Male has small red patch in centre of forecrown, buffish (rarely, pale yellow) nasal tufts, usually whitish-buff forehead and upper... read more


    Noisy, with wide range of variable calls; rolling vibrato “chürr üh-rr” often in short series,... read more


    Arid habitats with large cacti or scattered trees, including deserts; also mesic habitats such as... read more

    Food and feeding

    Essentially omnivorous. Animal food includes insects of various kinds, especially ants, beetles, Orthoptera, termites (Isoptera), cicadids... read more


    Apr–Aug; often 2 or 3 broods in a season. Monogamous, in pairs throughout year; solitary nester. Nest-hole excavated by both sexes,... read more


    Resident; occasionally wanders short distances N or NW in California (as far W as Los Angeles area... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to fairly common in all suitable habitats in its range. A mid-1980’s study in Tucson (Arizona) gave densities of 29 birds/km² in... read more

    Recommended citation

    Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis). 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 19 February 2020).