Lewis's Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis)
Associated Species: Other species that may use this 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
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. The Arkansas River watershed, the pinyon-juniper country of Las Animas and
Huerfano counties, and the San Juan Basin hold the largest concentrations. Smaller numbers
reside in west-central valleys and plateaus, the edge of the Front Range from Denver to Wyoming,
and the Black Forest northeast of Colorado Springs. Many birds that nest at higher elevations
and latitudes withdraw to lower elevations and latitudes during the winter.
Habitat Requirements: Lewis's Woodpeckers breed in riparian forests, agricultural areas and
urban areas with scattered, mature cottonwoods, adjacent to areas of low vegetation, such as
ungrazed or lightly grazed grasslands, mowed hayfields, or fallow fields.
Ecology: Lewis's Woodpeckers initiate nesting by late April, and most young leave the nest by
the end of July. The diet during the warmer months is largely 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.
European Starlings compete for limited nest cavities and limit breeding success of this species in
some areas. Research ways to reduce competition from these unprotected, introduced birds.
Status and Reasons for Concern: Lewis's Woodpeckers are on the national Watch List,
indicating a high conservation need throughout their range. They are classified as a Sensitive
Species in U.S. Forest Service Region 2. This species is not adequately monitored by the BBS
within Physiographic Area 62, and BBS data collected between 1969 and 1996 are too sparse to
allow analysis of trend data (n = 10 routes). Lewis's Woodpeckers were present on an average of
4.60% (SE = 1.47) of routes run in Physiographic Area 62 in Colorado, 1988-1997, at an average
abundance of 0.16 (SE = 0.06) individuals per route. The mean number of routes run each year
was 21.1 (SE = 3.06). This species is monitored by MCB with tracking transects.
Biological Objective: Maintain or increase the species' distribution and abundance, based upon
results of the BBS and MCB monitoring programs.
Selected References: Andrews and Righter 1992, Kingery 1998, Tobalske 1997, Vierling 1997.