Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the June 2, 2013 Newsletter issued from the Frio Canyon Nature Education Center in northern Uvalde County, southwestern Texas, on the southern border of the Edwards Plateau, USA
LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKERS

In a grove of Texas Live Oaks I heard an excited-sounding PEEK! PEEK! PEEK! birdcall sounding very much like the Hairy Woodpecker, but that species isn't listed on Michael Overton's Birds of Uvalde County, Texas Checklist, so I wasn't sure what I was hearing. What I finally saw was that nearby two woodpeckers in a live oak were discussing an old trunk wound that must have harbored some bugs. That's the birds below:

Ladder-backed Woodpecker , PICOIDES SCALARIS, two juveniles

The birds' faces were very similar to that of the Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, but their backs were strikingly different, Hairy and Downy backs being not at all cross-banded or "ladder-backed" like these.

In fact, these were Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, PICOIDES SCALARIS, in the same genus as the Hairy and Downy. From their behavior and short bills I supposed that they were young birds out exploring. Also, a third woodpecker with more decisive movement and relatively longer bill was stationed on a nearby tree keeping an eye on matters but otherwise letting things be, like a good parent. Below you can see a  nice close-up of just one short-billed bird with more white on the forehead than adults:

Ladder-backed Woodpecker , PICOIDES SCALARIS, juvenile

Ladder-backed Woodpeckers are mostly birds of arid lands of Mexico, parts of Central America, and the southwestern US from southeastern California to eastern Texas, as far north as southeastern Colorado. Throughout its distribution it shows a special fondness for foraging and nesting in cacti. Here we have abundant cacti but they sprawl across the ground instead of rising like trees, so I'll be watching to see where these birds nest.


from the March 29, 2015 Newsletter issued from Río Lagartos, on the north-central coast of Yucatán, MÉXICO
LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER, NORTHERN YUCATAN SUBSPECIES

Here in the Yucatan we have the same species of Ladder-backed Woodpecker we had up in Texas, but a different subspecies. Nine subspecies of Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Picoides scalaris, are recognized. Apparently ours subspecies is PARVUS, described at the Avibase.bsc-eoc.Org website as occurring in the northern Yucatan Peninsula, including Cozumel and Holbox Islands.

Our Yucatan birds strike me as having more extensive black markings on their heads and tanner underparts than the Texas birds. Below, you can see one of our parvus birds seen this week:

Ladder-backed Woodpecker, PICOIDES SCALARIS, ssp PARVUS, from the Yucatan