AMERICAN THREE-TOED WOODPECKER(Picoides dorsalis) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The American three-toed woodpecker has a black head and black back, tail and wings, with 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. This bird is about 22 cm (9 inches) long.
NAME: The English name refers to the three toe arrangement of the feet rather than the usual four. The Latin genus name ‘Picoides’ means ‘woodpecker’, and the Latin species name ‘dorsalis’ means ‘back’.
HABITAT: Conifer forests ravaged by fire, floods or disease.
DIET: Insects, also berries and tree sap.
NESTING: The nest is a tree cavity. Usually four white eggs are laid, incubated by both parents. They also both feed the chicks.
DISTRIBUTION: This woodpecker is a year-round resident of the boreal forest, and the Maritimes are situated at the southernmost end of that range.
ON PEI: This bird species does breed on Prince Edward Island, but sighting so far have only been accidental or occasional.
CONSERVATION: On a global level the population of this species appears stable and it is not at risk currently.
NOTES: Having three toes instead of the usual four for birds gives some advantages such as stronger blows but at the detriment of climbing ability.
Drumming: How can a woodpecker drum  repeatedly on hard surfaces without sustaining brain damage? There is a study trying to answer that question. Researchers found that woodpeckers can peck millions of times in their lifetime without any apparent brain damage. Yet, the acceleration force (Gs) of their pecking is in the 1,300 range. Compare this with a force of only 80 Gs sustained by a human, which will result in a brain concussion!
SIMILAR SPECIES: Black-backed Woodpecker
REFERENCES: (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas) (National Park Service, Rocky Mountains)
Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas (American Three-toed Woodpecker)

American Three-Toed Woodpecker, male - photo by PBonenfant
American Three-Toed Woodpecker, male – photo by PBonenfant