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Gila Woodpecker: Every Important Fact You Need to Know About the Bird

Gila Woodpecker: Every Important Fact You Need to Know About the Bird


Woodpecker is a lovely species of bird. If you’ve watched the 1957 Woody Woodpecker animation, you probably know that true to their names, these birds peck woods.

Woodpeckers are capable of poking trees at a speed of 6 meters per second and can do it 12,000 times a day.

The force of each tap ranges from 1,200 to 1,400Ns, which is huge considering 60 to 100Ns is enough to give a human adult a concussion. One of the species of woodpeckers is the Gila woodpecker.

Gila woodpeckers are food lovers, and you might find them in your backyard if you have a feeder hanging there.

Like there are feeders for bluebirds, there are also different feeders for Gila woodpeckers. You should discover the best ones for them and get them from trusted vendors.


Where Can You Find Them?

Gila woodpeckers are average-sized birds of the Picidae family. They are mostly found in the dry regions of the southwest of the United States and western Mexico.

These birds are widely associated with their nature of drilling woods to find invertebrates to feast on and make their nest. There are over 200 known species of these birds worldwide.



They are small birds with brown feather features. Both the female and male woodpeckers spot a striped black and white back, with their neck and belly having a greyish color.

The male bird has a unique red patch on its head that the females don’t, and white wing patches are noticed during flight. They are usually around 8 to 10 inches long.


Where Do They Live?

Gila woodpeckers live in a dry environment. They prefer arid forests and desert-like areas, especially shrubs. While these birds can nest on many trees, they usually occupy the Saguaro cactus and mesquite trees.

They feed on cacti fruits and make a hole inside to lay eggs. These holes, called boots, are formed when the cactus plant heals itself and creates a hardening sap over the wound.

It gives the birds a concrete place to stay for the season. They do not stay there for long and leave when the chicks grow. You can also find them in riverine areas, marshlands, and streams.


What Are They Like?

Gila woodpeckers are antisocial circadian birds, so you might not see them often. They spend most of the sunlight foraging and searching for food.

They are also very territorial, especially during mating periods. They protect and defend their nest to keep intruders away, including other bird species and humans.

They are notorious, unapologetic noisemakers. The birds also don’t have great vocals, so you might not enjoy waking up to their chirps. They also bang on metals and pipes to attract mates and declare their territory on many occasions.


How Do They Mate?

These species are loyal, monogamous birds – they mate for life. Their breeding season runs from April to August, in which most produce 2 to 3 breeds. Females lay between 3 to 7 eggs; these eggs take 12 to 14 days to hatch and are naturally incubated by both parents.

The chicks are hatched naked and vulnerable. The parents feed and protect them for 3- 4 weeks. Once fully grown, the baby birds fly away. Gila woodpeckers breed 2 to 3 times a year.


Is It A Threatened Species?

For more than 40 years now, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has studied Gila woodpeckers. During this period, they have seen an astounding growth, although there is habitat loss because climate change affects them too.

There are over 1.5 million of them, but they have become a threatened species because of the rise in climate change, forest fires, and other natural disasters.

The IUCN already has them on their Red List. While they are endangered in some parts of the world like California, the birds have been considered a Least Concern species today.


How Long Do They Live?

They can live for ten years, especially in captivity. However, when in their natural habitat and without any threats, their lifespan is around five years.

It’s due to predators hunting, which causes a shorter lifespan for this beautiful species. Some of its predators are owls, snakes, and squirrels.


How Do They Communicate?

Every animal has a means of communication. For these birds, it’s simply the use of vocal calls. They give shill cries, cackles, and chirps to produce noise to declare their space. They also use these sounds while chasing or fighting other birds.

These birds can cause a disturbance when calling out to mate. There is also a tendency to make noises if they don’t get food in the feeder when they come for it.

However, it’s beautiful to watch, especially if the birds trust you enough to eat right before you.


Do Gila Birds Eat The Brains Of Baby Birds?

Yes, they do..

At least one Gila woodpecker did in a viral video. It might be surprising, but some of these birds drill into the skull of baby birds to get to their brain. It may seem cannibalistic, but it’s a “natural survival of the fittest” situation.

Many animals eat others for survival, and the woodpecker is no different. They are also preyed on by predatory animals like snakes, falcons, and owls.


What Do They Eat?

Gila woodpeckers are omnivores. They eat various insects and invertebrates, such as earthworms. They also forage on wild plants and fruits like seeds, flower nectars, and berries.

They are known to feast on cacti and drill tree trunks, searching for hidden worms. These birds also love sugar water, usually placed in hummingbird feeders. You can attract them by placing your best bluebird feeders out in the garden.


Final Notes

Gila woodpeckers are a marvelous species of the Picidae family. They are widely tolerant of advanced human expansion as long as there is a conducive habitat and food for them.

Please, ensure to get the exact type of food that fits their needs. Just like the best bluebird feeders will not be suitable for African parrots, a general type of feed might not be the best option for your birds.

While these birds might be lovely backyard visitors, it’s crucial to know that it’s illegal to house them as pets in some states.



Author’s Bio

Aubrey Moore is currently taking a degree in Investment Management Analysis in her junior year in college. In the context of decision making and business strategy, she focuses on finance and information interpretation.



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