A Gila Woodpecker is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Gila Woodpeckers. We have also put together a list of fun Gila Woodpecker t-shirts, Gila Woodpecker bird patches, birdhouses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers, and other fun bird-watching items.
About Gila Woodpeckers
The Gila Woodpeckers are commonly known as Brewster’s Woodpeckers. They inhabit the desert regions of the southwestern United States and Mexico. They are mostly resident birds which means they don’t migrate during winter.
Description and Identification
Gila Woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers that are around 8.7 – 9.4 inches long
with a wingspan of 15.8 – 16.5 inches. The back and wings of these birds are spotted and
barred with a black-and-white striped pattern while their heads, necks, throats, and bellies
are grayish-tan in color. In-flight, the outer wings are black with a crescent-shaped white
patch that is present at the base of their primary feathers. Adult males have a red cap on
their crowns, a trait that is the only visible feature that distinguishes them from adult females.
Gila Woodpecker Size
- Length: the birds have an average length of 8 to 10 inches.
- Weight: a fully matured woodpecker weighs an average of 65 grams
- Wingspan: this bird species has an average wingspan of 13 to 16 inches
Gila Woodpecker Appearance
They have striking black and white barred patterns on their backs, upper wings, and tails. In-flight, large white wing patches can be seen. The rest of the plumage is tan-colored. The male can be identified by the small, round, red cap on his crown.
The Gila Woodpeckers’ back and rump are spotted and barred black and white zebra-like patterns. The white wing patches are visible in flight. The darkish tail has white bars on the central tail feathers. The rest of the plumage is mostly grayish-tan in color.
Young hatchlings will initially look like the females.
Gila Woodpecker Feeding
Gila Woodpeckers mainly eat insects, small invertebrates, and berries. They are omnivorous
and can consume a wide range of food. They forage in dead vegetation – on trunk bark or
large branches – and can peck, glean, or probe into the vegetation to find food. Their insect prey
includes ants, beetles, aphids, scale insects, grasshoppers, cicadas, termites, moths,
butterflies, and caterpillars. On occasion, they may steal eggs and nestlings from the nests
of warblers, finches, and videos. They are the most active at the earliest and the latest hours
of the day to escape the desert heat and to make use of the cool hours with sufficient
daylight. Unlike other woodpeckers, they rarely drill for food and usually tap and listen for
hollows with hidden prey. They also consume large quantities of saguaro and other cactus
fruits, mistletoe, and Lycium berries when they are available. In urban areas, they frequent
feeding stations that provide corn, suet, and various types of fruits and nuts.
These birds usually forage for fruits, insects, and eggs of smaller birds. Sometimes a pair will forage together during the courtship period.
Gila Woodpecker Habitat
These birds are only found in arid environments, with most of their population concentrated
around the deserts and dry forests of the southwestern United States and neighboring
Mexico. They generally occur at elevations of 3,300 feet. They are the most common in low
swales and arroyos, including riparian corridors with cottonwood, willow, mesquite, and giant
saguaro cacti. As long as their habitats for foraging and nesting remain undisturbed, they
seem to be reasonably tolerant of human development. Populations that are found nesting in
saguaro cacti are primarily found in Arizona, whereas populations that nest in tree species
as well are mainly concentrated in Mexico and south-eastern California.
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
Gila Woodpeckers are desert woodpeckers found across the regions of south-western
The United States and western Mexico. In the United States, they range from south-eastern
California through southern Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. These birds are permanent
residents of their habitats and are not found outside of their arid habitats.
Gila 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 8 meters from the ground in the cavities of mature columnar trees. The female lays an average of 5 to 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.
Gila Woodpecker Nesting
Nest cavities are excavated by both males and females around 19 – 25 feet above the
ground. As mentioned earlier, in some regions of their range they can often be found within a
tall saguaro cactus in a low area like an arroyo. In other areas of their range, they are found
nesting in trees like oak, paloverde, mesquite, cottonwood, willow, or palm. The excavated
chamber is unlined and can vary significantly in its dimensions but has an entrance that is
typically 2 inches in diameter.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At 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 Gila Woodpeckers
The most common types of bird-watching binoculars for viewing Gila 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.
Gila Woodpecker T-shirts
If you love the Gila Woodpecker you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.
Gila Woodpecker Iron On Patches
Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron-on patches. Our bird-watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.
The Gila Woodpecker is a great iron-on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.
Gila Woodpecker Stickers
Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Gila 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 Gila Woodpeckers
There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.
Best Bird Houses for Gila 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.