Las Pilitas Nursery

California Native Plants are all we grow!

Blog Contact Us Directions

3232 Las Pilitas Rd
Santa Margarita, CA 93453

Shop For Plants Cart Contents

This website is dedicated to Bert Wilson. His genius continues to inspire us.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Picoides scalaris

Reproduction of the Ladder-backed woodpecker

The Ladder-backed woodpecker excavates nest cavities in the Agave and Yucca's dead flower stalks and Joshua tree. Most vegetation in the desert is either to short and accessible to predators or too narrow in diameter to excavate a hole. The Ladder-backed woodpecker also nests in riparian areas that border the desert. Here they nest in snags of cottonwoods, willows, or mesquite.

Niche filled by the Ladder-backed woodpecker

The Ladder-backed woodpecker eats the agave beetle larva. The adult beetles are essential for pollination. However, the larva eat the maturing fruit. The Ladder-backed woodpecker helps to control their population and keep things in balance. The Ladder-back woodpecker also uses the old Agave flower stalk as a nest site.

How to attract the Ladder-backed woodpecker to your garden

First of all, you must be near the desert habitats the bird lives in naturally. I'm sorry, but if you live a thousand miles away they will not fly specifically to your garden. However if you live in southern California this is probably close enough. The two most important things are food and housing. These can both be achieved by planting the appropriate plant community. First plant dual purpose plants. Plants that will provide a source of wood boring beetles as well as good nest sites. If you plant trees, it will take a long time to get a tree large enough to support a woodpecker. In addition dead wood is needed for a nest site and chances are your baby tree will not have dead branches any time soon. So a while you are waiting for your riparian species to mature, plant a Yucca or an Agave. When these flower, do not remove the old stalks. Make sure not to plant them to close to walk ways. Birds do not like predators to know where their young are, and they might poke someone. Also, do not plant the riparian species next to your desert species. This is a big no-no. Either the riparian plants will die of drought or the desert species will drown. Put some transitional communities in between.

Range of Ladder-backed woodpecker

The Ladder-backed Woodpecker lives in the southeastern corner of California from southern Kern and Inyo counties into Mexico. This area falls into the range of the Mojave and Sonoran desert.

Habitat/Plant community used by the Ladder-backed woodpecker

The Ladder-back is found primarily in desert habitats. These habitats include Joshua tree woodland, Pinyon-juniper woodland, desert wash, and Creosote scrub and Shad scale scrub that contains Agave . They also frequent riparian communities bordering desert regions.

Community links:

Creosote scrub

Shad scale scrub

Pinyon-juniper woodland

Joshua tree woodland


Diet of the Ladder-backed woodpecker

The Ladder-backed woodpecker feeds primarily on insects. A large portion of the Ladder-backed woodpecker's diet consists of wood-boring beetles and other insect. The Ladder-backed woodpecker has been known to feed on cactus fruit as well.

A short video fo Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Picoides scalaris in action.

Migratory status of the Ladder-backed woodpecker

The Ladder-backed woodpecker does not migrate.