Land Bird Conservation Plan Colorado  

Executive Summary
Overview of Colorado
Physiographic Region 36
Physiographic Region 62

  • Alpine Tundra
  • Aspen
  • Cliff/Rock
  • High Elevation Riparian
  • Lowland Riparian
  • Mixed Conifer
  • Mountain Shrubland
  • Ponderosa Pine
  • Sagebrush Shrubland
  • Spruce Fir
  • Wetlands

  • Physiographic Region 87
    Implementation Strategies
    Literature Cited

    Physiographic Region 62: Southern Rocky Mountains

    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 Northern Flicker, Pygmy Nuthatch, House Wren, and Western Bluebird.

    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. In Physiographic Area 62 in Colorado, this species occupies low-elevation ponderosa pine forests, especially in riparian areas.

    Habitat Requirements: Lewis's Woodpeckers breed in open ponderosa pine forests with large trees and snags and in burned forest with abundant snags. Compared to other woodpeckers, Lewis's Woodpeckers have weak bills and skulls and are largely incapable of excavating cavities in sound wood. Instead, they excavate their nesting and roosting cavities in soft wood, or rely on natural cavities or cavities excavated by other woodpeckers.

    Ecology: These woodpeckers are residents in Colorado, although individuals may wander after the breeding season. They 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, their diet shifts to nuts, grains, and berries.

    Management Issues and Conservation Recommendations: Lewis's Woodpeckers depend on commercially-valuable large trees and snags and an open stand structure for aerial pursuit of insects. Fire suppression policies contribute to a closed stand structure. Retain stands of mature and old-growth ponderosa pine forest, restored to presettlement conditions (open stand structure with clusters of large trees and a grassy understory).

    These woodpeckers are sensitive to human disturbance at the nest. Restrict commercial and recreational timber cutting and recreation development (roads, trails, campgrounds) in areas with known Lewis's Woodpecker nest cavities.

    Status and Reasons for Concern: This species is on the national Watch List, indicating a high conservation need throughout its range. It is 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.

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