The Saguaro dwelling Gila Woodpecker is one of Arizona’s favorites, even though the Cactus Wren is officially the State Bird. The Gila Woodpecker is most often confused with the Northern Flicker, or its close relative, the Gilded Flicker. The Ladderback Woodpecker is another contender, but more easily put aside. We welcome birding comments.
Here are some of the distinctive markings that might help those of you who were confused as I was. Once you see them all together, it is much easier.Northern Flicker (Red or Yellow Shafted)
Less common in Arizona than the Gilded Flicker, the red shafted is more common to the western United States than the yellow shafted Northern Flicker.
• Black mustached throat
• White with Black Spots on breast (Gila is Brown on breast)
• Red Crown
• Red malar (red shafted) or Black (yellow shafted) or Brown (female) Malar on nape
• White wings with Black “flicks”
David Margrave [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsGilded Flicker
The Gilded Flicker is part of the Northern Flicker family. It resides in the Southwest, and is smaller than the Northern Flicker. The Gilded Flicker along with the Gila Woodpecker builds it home in the Saguaro. But it is easy to tell the difference.
• Red malar nape
• Spotted Breast -(Gila does not have a spotted breast)
• Grey with Black Spots
• Black Mustached throat
The Ladderback Woodpecker is easily distinguished from the Gila Woodpecker. Although their wings are similar and the males both sport a red crown, that is where the similarity ends.
• Red Crown
• Spotted Breast
• Black with white spots.
(Nature’s Pic’s www.naturespicsonline.com)Gila Woodpecker
The Gila Woodpecker is a noisy bird, tapping on metal to attract a mate, calling anyone who will listen. But we love them. We have a local Gila Woodpecker in our Saguaro just outside the door. He drinks all the hummingbird food and feeds his family. His distinctive characteristics are as follows and make it easy to tell the difference.
• Red Crown (Male)
• Brown Breast, no spots or flicks. Distinguishes it from the Gilded or Northern Flicker
• Black with White spots on back.
The Tucson Audubon Society is quite active in this birders paradise. They offer a birding tour at Sweetwater Wetlands every Wednesday. If you are interested in birding aka birdwatching, consider joining, donating and volunteering.