A native of Texas and the northern parts of Mexico, the golden-fronted woodpecker is a distinctive-looking bird, with its striped bodies and splashes of gold.
After getting in trouble with humans a century ago, the golden-fronted woodpecker’s population numbers have bounced back and are currently stable.
That doesn’t mean the golden-fronted woodpecker changed its ways to coexist with people. It means that people learned to accept and coexist with the birds.
Let’s find out what that trouble was, and 9 other facts about the golden-fronted woodpecker.
1. Golden-Fronted Woodpeckers Versus Telegraph Poles
In the early decades of the 20th century, telegraph and telephone poles were erected across the United States.
In parts of Texas, the golden-fronted woodpeckers exploited these poles by excavating holes and nesting cavities in them. The holes weakened the poles.
It got so bad that telegraph field workers and residents were encouraged to shoot the golden-fronted woodpeckers. They were viewed as a pest and a nuisance. Their numbers dwindled.
2. A Comeback Story
The golden-fronted woodpecker population has since recovered from this eradication effort a century ago.
The golden-fronted woodpeckers didn’t change their ways. Humans figured out how to keep the woodpeckers from burrowing into the wooden poles.
Telegraph and telephone companies started treating the wooden poles to make the wood hard and impenetrable. They also wrapped portions of the poles in wire mesh.
These methods protected the poles from the golden-fronted woodpeckers and stopped the eradication efforts against the birds.
3. A Splash Of Gold
The golden-fronted woodpeckers get their name from the splash of golden plumage on their napes and above their beaks. They have black and white striped backs and wings and grayish-yellow underbellies.
Male and female golden-fronted woodpeckers would be identical except for one feature. The males have a crown of red on their heads. Females don’t have this coloration; their heads are gray.
4. Mesquite Is The Golden-Fronted Woodpecker’s Favorite Tree
In addition to telephone poles, the golden-fronted woodpeckers like mesquite trees. They often make their homes amid stands of mesquite. They remain close to water sources, such as rivers and creeks.
The golden-fronted woodpecker prefers open forests and is not found in dense woodlands. They want access to open areas, while sticking close to trees.
5. The Golden-Fronted Woodpecker Is An Average-Sized Woodpecker
In the woodpecker family, the golden-fronted woodpecker doesn’t rank among the largest members but is also not on the small size either. At between 8 ½ and 10 inches long, it is comfortably average.
The golden-fronted woodpeckers weigh between 2.3 and 3.5 ounces and their wingspan ranges between 4 ¾ inches and 5 ½ inches long.
6. They Have A Love-Hate Relationship With Their Cousin
In some parts of Texas, the territory of the golden-fronted woodpecker overlaps with that of its cousin, the red-bellied woodpecker. The two species share many similarities, but they viciously and aggressively defend their territories from each other.
It might seem like the golden-fronted woodpeckers and the red-bellied woodpeckers are mortal enemies, but the two sometimes interbreed with each other. Forbidden romance?
7. Nuts, Seeds & Insects Make Up The Golden-Fronted Woodpecker’s Diet
As omnivores, the golden-fronted woodpeckers eat both insects and plant material. They are often found near groves of mesquite and will crack open mesquite pods to get to the seeds.
They will eat the seeds, berries, acorns, fruits, nuts, and foliage of other plants, too.
The insects they eat provide the golden-fronted woodpeckers with the protein they need. They search for insects when they excavate trees and poles but will also catch bugs in the air or forage for them on the ground.
8. They Are Permanent Residents
Golden-fronted woodpeckers are not migratory birds. They are permanent, year-round residents of their territories.
Individual birds may relocate to a different spot within the area in search of better nesting and foraging opportunities. In general, though, they will not stray too far.
9. The Call Of The Golden-Fronted Woodpecker Sounds Harsh And Grating
The golden-fronted woodpecker is definitely not a songbird. Its vocalizations are grating and rather annoying. It produces a slow and repetitive “tig-tig-tig” call, as well as a loud “kerrrrrr” sound.
Like all woodpeckers, the golden-fronted woodpecker used its drumming as a form of communication. It is also a way for a male to announce his territory.
Unlike the drumming of other woodpeckers, however, the golden-fronted woodpecker’s drumming is slow and staccato-like.
10. Golden-Fronted Woodpeckers Mate Twice A Year
A mating pair of golden-fronted woodpeckers will produce two broods per year. Each brood contains between four and seven eggs.
Both parents work together to excavate a nest cavity in a live tree, dead tree trunk, or utility pole. The nesting cavities are typically between 9 and 30 feet off the ground.
The male golden-fronted woodpecker takes his turn incubating the eggs at night while the female takes her turn during the day.
The eggs hatch in two weeks and both parents will tend to the hatchlings until they are ready to leave the nest, about a month after they hatch.