American Three-toed Woodpecker

American Three-Toed Woodpecker Picture

An American Three-toed Woodpecker is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify American Three-toed Woodpeckers. We have also put together a list of fun American Three-toed Woodpecker T-shirts, American Three-toed Woodpecker bird patches, birdhouses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers, and other fun bird watching items.

About American Three-toed Woodpeckers

The American Three-toed Woodpecker is alternatively named Northern Three-toed Woodpecker. This bird species breed in the northern regions of America. The American Three-toed Woodpecker has identical characteristics with the Black-backed Woodpecker in its choice of food, habitat, and behaviors. This bird is a sedentary creature that rarely leaves its home range. In the winter, however, the bird migrates southwards. They are not so easy to spot as they tend to cling to trees and remain motionless for long periods of time.

Description and Identification

The American Three-toed Woodpecker is a small bird, about 21-23 cm in length. They have a stout body and a funny-looking short yet chiseled bill. Both genders are black and white, the striking difference between them is a yellow patch on the forehead that the males possess. Their backs are black with an irregular white pattern and white spots on their wings. Their underside is white and lined with black on the flanks. They have lovely eyes, lined with white behind the eyes and on the cheeks. Their top is black and white. Both sexes in juveniles have a small yellow crown patch.

American Three-toed Woodpecker Size

These birds are an average length of 9 inches. A fully matured American Three-toed Woodpecker weighs an average of 66 grams. The American Three-toed Woodpecker has an average wingspan of 15 inches.

American Three-toed Woodpecker Appearance

The adults have a blackhead, wings, and rump. The belly, rump, and throat are white with black bars. An adult male of this bird species has a yellow crown with a forehead that has dull white spots. It has a short and heavy bill that is chisel-like. The only distinction between the male and female is that the female has a whitish crown on its blackhead. The young ones resemble an adult female American three-toed woodpecker.

American Three-toed Woodpecker Diet

The American Three-toed Woodpeckers usually feed on beetle larvae of the mountain pine beetle, wood-boring beetle, and a variety of other beetles. They even consume ant larvae, spiders, and moths. They mainly scan and rummage for food on barks of trees or snags, these may be of living or non-living trees. They even dig into the hardwood of trees to catch their prey, these include beetles, insects residing in the trunk, etc. Some of them even dig themselves sap wells in the tree to collect the sap and drink it, just like Sapsuckers do.

These birds usually forage for live or dead conifers with a preference for spruces. They also feed on insects. Sometimes a pair will forage together during the courtship period.

American Three-toed Woodpecker Habitat

These birds are usually found on coniferous trees in the Rockies, including both the boreal and mountain forests. They are more common in old-grown forests, damaged by Natural Calamities. This is because the areas exposed to floods, fires wind, etc have snags and dead trees which are excellent for their breeding and nesting conditions. Moist areas with damaged trees are their habitat. black spruce, American larch, and balsam fir are the trees that they inhabit in the west of the range whereas jack pine, quaking aspen, and white spruce are the trees preferred in the boreal forest. The American Three-toed Woodpeckers also reside in trees like western red cedar, Engelmann spruce, Douglas-fir, paper birch, and balsam depending on availability, condition, and insect population. These birds are absent or scarcely seen in logged areas.

These Woodpeckers prefer living in conifer forests. They also set up nests in areas with a big offering of wood-eating insects and many trees.

Range and Migration

These bird species are nomadic in nature to some extent. They don’t have a specific latitudinal migration and tend to move into areas destroyed by floods, fires, wind, storms, etc. They do however seem to withdraw into lowlands during the winters. The American three-toed woodpeckers aren’t very commonly spotted in Washington. Some places that they may be spotted in are, Hart’s pass, Thunder Mountain burn, Silver first forest along highway 12 in Lewis County, Okanogan County, and Asotin County.

American Three-toed Woodpecker Life and Behavior

It is not uncommon for pairs of this species of woodpeckers to remain together for more than one nesting season. The nest is built by both sexes 6 meters from the ground in a standing dead tree. Their defense mechanism is usually to ignore any intrusion into their nest. The female lays an average of 4 to 6 white eggs each season. Both the male and female incubate the eggs for about two weeks. The young ones are looked after by both parents and leave the nest a month after hatching.


The male and female both help in building the nest. The male does more work during the initial stages of excavating the nest cavity whereas the female tends to take over when the hole is near completion. They both unite to line the bottom with wooden chips, to prevent their juveniles from any injury. The American Three-toed Woodpecker tends to use small coniferous trees to build nests, especially at the lower parts of the main trunk. They may or may not use a living tree. The entrance cavity of their nest is about 1.6 inches in diameter is 11 inches deep, and approximately 4 inches across. A bevel is usually noticed at the bottom edge of the nest.


Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes

At the Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.

Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying American Three-toed Woodpeckers

The most common types of bird-watching binoculars for viewing American Three-toed Woodpeckers are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

American Three-toed Woodpecker Stickers

Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the American Three-toed Woodpecker. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.

Bird Feeders for American Three-toed Woodpeckers

There are many types of bird feeders. Bird feeders are a great addition to your backyard. Bird feeders will increase the chances of attracting birds drastically. Both kids and adults will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. There are a wide variety of bird feeders on the market and it is important to find the best fit for you and your backyard.

Best Bird Houses for American Three-toed Woodpeckers

There are many types of birdhouses. Building a birdhouse is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 birdhouses have become our favorites. Getting a birdhouse for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these birdhouses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.

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