The Gila Woodpecker is a desert bird native to the Sonoran desert, particularly due to its abundance of saguaro cacti. This bird is a greyish-tan colour with black and white barring down the wings, back, and tail, with males also having a red coloured patch on the middle of the crown.
They are omnivorous, eating mainly insects found on or around Saguaro cacti or other desert scrub, but also enjoying cactus fruit, seeds, and even lizards, eggs, and nectar from hummingbird feeders – which was how I discovered this creature. In small towns, they are also sometimes known for stealing dog food left out on the porch!
As the Gila Woodpecker is diurnal, they can be found foraging during the day, and roosting inside cavities in cacti like the Saguaro, or in mesquite trees. These cavities, called “boots”, in large cacti need time to dry after being excavated by one of these woodpeckers – because of this, sometimes these cavities are dug out one year and used the next. You can see these cavities usually 8-30′ from the ground.
They nest with their monogamous partners between April and August, producing 3-7 eggs per brood, and 2-3 broods per season. Both male and female Gila Woodpeckers incubate the eggs, and males will become more territorial during breeding season. Chicks become independent by 4 weeks of age, though sometimes will still hang around longer before leaving the nest.