AMERICAN THREE-TOED WOODPECKER – (Picoides dorsalis)
The American three-toed woodpecker looks very similar to the Black-backed woodpecker (which also has three toes) and they have similar habitat ranges, the boreal forest. It is about 22 cm (9 in.) long and has a black head, back, tail and wings, and white under parts. The white flanks are striated with black. There’s a white band behind the eye. The bill is shorter than the head. The male has a yellow cap.
The American three-toed woodpecker prefers conifer forests ravaged by fire or disease in search of insects. The bird will also feed on berries and tree sap. Having three toes instead of the usual four for birds gives some advantages such as stronger blows but at the detriment of climbing ability. For some information on woodpecker drumming, please click here.
This bird species does breed on PEI, however there have only been accidental or occasional sightings so far. One such example is a bird found nesting in the Cavendish area in 2008 and photographed by Dwaine Oakley (Nature PEI Newsletter #189). It is a year-round resident of the boreal forest and the Maritimes are situated at the southernmost end of that range.