Black-backed woodpecker may be headed toward endangered species list

Alicia Knadler
Indian Valley Editor

Black-backed woodpeckers are the subject of a petition for protection now being reviewed by the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG).

The Center for Biological Diversity and the John Muir Project of the Earth Island Institute petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission in October 2010 for protection under the California Endangered Species Act.

The commission then charged DFG with review of the petition and the collection of public comments.

Comments that may be essential for the species include those about the woodpeckers’ ecology, biology, life history, distribution, abundance, threats and habitats.

Those who wish to comment have until June 1 to do so, after which the DFG will compile comments into a report to the commission.

After the commission receives the report, there will be a 30-day comment period before any action is taken on the DFG recommendation.

Comments, data and other information must be submitted in writing to the California Department of Fish and Game Nongame Wildlife Program, Attn: Lyann Comrack, 1812 Ninth St., Sacramento, CA 95811.

Comments may also be emailed to

The DFG evaluation of the petition can be read online, at Once there, enter black-backed woodpecker petition into the search box.


Woodpecker history

The black-backed woodpecker is an uncommon, yearlong resident at higher elevations of predominately fir and lodgepole pine forests, according to a short report compiled by DFG Interagency Wildlife Task Group using historical and scientific data gathered from studies dating from 1939 to 1994.

The 1944 information shows them in the forests of Siskiyou, Mount Shasta and Warner Mountains through the Cascade Range and the Sierra Nevada Range to Tulare County.

The birds peck the bark away or drill into the trunks of conifers to obtain insect larvae, mostly of woodborer beetles.

Preferred feeding sites are in snags, dying or insect-infested trees, though the birds will also eat small amounts of fruits, mast and cambium.

Nesting sites are usually in larger trees, living or dead, where the males and females will excavate a nesting cavity about 10 – 20 feet above the ground.

Although birds are yearlong residents, some will move to lower elevations in the winter.

Birds will also migrate to stands of dead wood or those infested with woodborer beetles, including burns and windfall areas.

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