Common Name

Scientific Name

Photo by Jim Bailey, Utah Nature Photography
Photo Copyright Jim Bailey

The ladder-backed woodpecker, Picoides scalaris, is a resident (non-migratory) species that inhabits southeastern California, the southwestern United States, western Texas, western Oklahoma, much of Mexico, and parts of Central America. In Utah, the species is restricted to the Mojave Desert in the extreme southwestern corner of the state. The ladder-backed woodpecker is found in deserts and dry brushlands, as well as in pinon-juniper, pine-oak, and riparian woodlands.

Individuals feed primarily on insects and fruits, especially the fruits of cacti. A male mates with just one female, and a nest cavity is typically excavated in the trunk or branch of an agave tree. Four to five eggs are incubated, and both parents share nesting duties during the thirteen day incubation period. Both the male and the female continue to care for the helpless young after they hatch.


  • Biological and Conservation Database. 2000. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, The Nature Conservancy, and the Association for Biodiversity Information.

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Behle, W. H., Sorensen, E. D. and C. M. White. 1985. Utah birds: a revised checklist. Utah Museum of Natural History, Occasional Publication No. 4. Salt Lake City, UT.