Land Bird Conservation Plan Colorado  

Overview of Colorado
Physiographic Region 36

  • Grasslands
  • Lowland Riparian
  • Shore/Bank
  • Wetlands

  • Physiographic Region 62
    Physiographic Region 87
    Implementation Strategies
    Literature Cited

    Physiographic Region 36: Central Shortgrass Prairie

    Lewis's Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis)

    Associated Species: Other species that may use habitat in a similar way and/or respond similarly to threats, management, and conservation activities include American Kestrel, Great Horned Owl, Northern Flicker, Western Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Yellow Warbler, and Bullock's Oriole.

    Distribution: Lewis's Woodpeckers breed from central British Columbia and western Alberta south to northern Mexico, and as far east as eastern Wyoming. In Colorado, Lewis's Woodpeckers reside in the valleys, plains, and foothills from 1100 to 2400 m (3,500-8,000 ft) in elevation. In Physiographic Area 87 in western Colorado, Lewis's Woodpeckers are fairly common summer residents in central and southwestern valleys, but rare north of the Colorado River.

    Habitat Requirements: Lewis's Woodpeckers breed in riparian forests, agricultural areas, and urban areas when they contain scattered, mature cottonwoods adjacent to areas of low vegetation, such as ungrazed or lightly grazed grasslands, mowed hayfields, or fallow fields. In southeastern Colorado, mean dbh of nest trees was 112.6 cm (44.3 in), significantly greater than that of unused trees (Vierling 1997). These woodpeckers avoid dense riparian forests, and those which contain Red-headed Woodpeckers. They excavate their nesting and roosting cavities in the soft wood of dead or decaying trees, or rely on natural cavities or cavities excavated by other woodpeckers; they have relatively weak bills and skulls and cannot excavate cavities in sound wood.

    Ecology: Lewis's Woodpeckers initiate nesting by late April, and most young leave the nest by the end of July. Their diet during the warmer months consists largely of flying insects caught on the wing. During colder months, the diet shifts to nuts, grains, and berries.

    Management Issues and Conservation Recommendations: Lewis's Woodpeckers depend upon large trees and snags and are sensitive to disturbance at the nest. Reduce or eliminate activities that degrade the structure and quality of the overstory or understory of riparian systems. Do not permit timber cutting within 30 m (100 ft) of the riparian area. Locate recreational facilities such as roads, trails and campgrounds up, out of riparian areas.

    Competition with European Starlings for limited nest cavities may limit breeding success of this species in some areas. Research ways to reduce competition from these unprotected, introduced birds.

    Status and Reasons for Concern: This species has a high conservation need locally and throughout its range. It is on the national Watch List and is a USFS Sensitive Species in Region 2. Lewis's Woodpeckers are not adequately monitored by the BBS in Physiographic Area 36, and data are too sparse to permit meaningful analysis of trends. This species was present on an average of 6.40% (SE = 1.46) of BBS routes run in Physiographic Area 36 in Colorado, 1988-1997, at an average abundance of 0.13 (SE = 0.04) individuals per route. The mean number of routes run each year was 29.2 (SE = 2.28). This species is monitored by MCB with tracking transects.

    Biological Objective: Increase the species' distribution and abundance, based upon results of BBS and MCB monitoring programs.

    Selected References: Andrews and Righter 1992, Hadow 1973, Kingery 1998, Tobalske 1997, Vierling 1997.

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