Desert Duets: Gila Woodpecker Babies Web Page

Gila woodpeckers breed from March to June. Although they spend much of their time alone, they form a permanent pair with a mate and reconnect each year in order to breed and raise their young.

In the Sonoran Desert, both the male and female drill into saguaro cacti and mesquite trees to create nests. (The holes they create do not usually harm the plant.) These birds plan ahead. Before they move in, woodpeckers let the nest dry for a few months. In the saguaro, a crust or boot forms around the woodpeckers' nest hole. Woodpeckers are famous for vigorously defending their nests, particularly after they have laid their eggs.

When food is plentiful, each pair of Gila woodpeckers produces two clutches of three to five white eggs that take about two weeks to incubate. Like the greater roadrunner, both male and female sit on the eggs, and both parents feed the baby birds. Even after they fledge, the young Gila woopeckers return to their brood nest for several more weeks to take handouts from their parents.

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Launched: February 2008
Updated: 28 February 2009