The Gila woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) is a medium-sized woodpecker of the desert regions of the southwestern United States and western Mexico. In the U.S., they range through southeastern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico.
This woodpecker's habitat consists of low desert scrub typical of the Sonoran Desert. They build nests in holes made in saguaro cacti or mesquite trees. Cavities excavated by these woodpeckers in saguaro cacti are later used by a variety of other species, including the elf owl. There, they typically lay 3-5 white eggs.
The back and wings of this bird are spotted and barred with a black and white zebra-like pattern. The neck, throat, belly and head are greyish-tan in color. The male has a small red cap on the top of the head. Females and juveniles are similar, but both lack the red cap of the adult male. White wing patches are prominent in flight. The dark tail has white bars on the central tail feathers. They range from 8-10 in (20-25 cm) in length.
This woodpecker's voice is a rolling churr sound. It also makes a yip yip yip sound and a kee-u, kee-u, kee-u sound. Its drum is long and steady.
Cavities in saguaro cactuses in the Southwest are common. Both gilded flickers and Gila woodpeckers make these cavities for nesting, but they often choose different locations on the cactus.
Although they do not use them immediately, waiting first for the sap to harden, Gila Woodpeckers excavate cavities in cacti and trees as nesting sites.