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Wed, Aug. 21

Woodpeckers common in the Prescott area

Last Saturday morning I spotted five different woodpecker species here at Jay's Bird Barn in a 30-minute time span. The five species were: northern flicker, ladder-backed woodpecker, acorn woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, and red-naped sapsucker. While it is not unusual to see any of these woodpecker species in the Prescott area, I cannot recall a time when I have seen so many different kinds of woodpeckers in the same physical area within such a short time frame. In fact, I saw four of the five species in the same ponderosa pine tree!

While woodpeckers are common in the Prescott area, the number of woodpeckers in any given area is usually limited because many woodpecker species are very "habitat specific." Bird species that have specific habitat requirements are found only in those areas that meet their needs. For example, I live in an area that is primarily scrub oak, with some piñon pine and a lot of juniper trees. I have never seen an acorn woodpecker in my yard.

Why is that? Well, acorn woodpeckers inhabit areas with old-growth Emory oak trees, which produce acorns. Acorn woodpeckers are dependent on this specific habitat, and they are very common in areas where oak and ponderosa pine habitats overlap. If you live in an area such as mine, which lacks at least a smattering of ponderosa pine trees and large oak trees, it is very unlikely that you will ever see an acorn woodpecker in your neighborhood.

If you live in more "suburbanized" areas that are lacking in large native vegetation or if you live in Chino Valley or Prescott Valley – areas that historically have had very few trees – the more common varieties of woodpeckers will be both the northern flicker and the ladder-backed woodpecker.

If you live in an area characterized by ponderosa pines, you are most likely to see hairy woodpeckers. It is true that some bird species will "wander" out of their primary habitat, so it is important to always be on the lookout – you never know what you might see. Northern flickers are an example of a woodpecker species that occurs in a range of different habitats – from city/suburban settings to oak/chaparral and even in pine forests.

Of the five woodpecker species I saw on Saturday, all of them are considered common, year-round residents in the Prescott area, with the exception of the red-naped sapsucker. In the wintertime we actually can see two types of sapsuckers in the Prescott area, both the red-naped and the Williamson's sapsucker. These migratory birds arrive in Prescott during late fall and will winter here until early spring before leaving for their breeding range to the north of us.

While most insect eaters such as warblers, vireos and swallows migrate south to avoid winter in the Central Highlands, woodpeckers have adapted their food foraging techniques so that they can endure the long, cold winter months. Woodpeckers are primarily insect eaters, and find their food in the bark of trees. They will readily visit suet feeders, and several woodpecker species will visit seed feeders where they prefer both peanuts and black-oil sunflower seed.

I frequently hear complaints about woodpeckers excavating holes in the sides of both wooden and stucco homes. Typically, if you have woodpeckers that are working on your house, they are probably either northern flickers or acorn woodpeckers. Woodpeckers can be destructive, but it is important to remember that laws protect them. They cannot be destroyed or trapped without permission from the Arizona Fish and Game Department.

If you have specific questions or issues related to wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, you can submit them to Jay's Bird Barn, 1815 Iron Springs Road, Prescott, AZ 86305 or log on to and click on "Ask Eric," which will link you with my e-mail address Until next week, happy birding!

Eric M. Moore is the owner of Jay's Bird Barn located at Watters Garden Center. He has been an avid birder for 40 years.

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