Banded Three-toed Woodpecker

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Birds of America

By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.


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[Three-toed Woodpecker.]

[Picoides tridactylus.]


The difference between this bird and that described under the name of Picus tridactylus was unknown to me until clearly pointed out by the minute and accurate description of Mr. SWAINSON in the Fauna Boreali-Americana. Indeed I had looked upon it as the young of the species just mentioned. Not having met with it myself, I can only refer you to the very short notice of Dr. RICHARDSON, who says: "This bird exists in all the forests of spruce-fir lying between Lake Superior and the Arctic Sea, and it is the most common Woodpecker north of the Great Slave Lake. It much resembles the P. villosus (by which I presume is meant P. canadensis, as already explained) in its habits, except that it seeks its food principally on decaying trees of the pine tribe, in which it frequently makes holes large enough to bury itself. It does not migrate."

I have represented the male and the female, from specimens lent to me by the Council of the Zoological Society of London.

PICUS HIRSUTUS, Vieill. Ois. de l'Amer., vol. ii. p. 124.

PICUS (APTERNUS) TRIDACTYLUS, Common Three-toed Woodpecker, Swains. and Rich. F. Bor. Amer., vol. ii. P. 311.

COMMON THREE-TOED WOODPECKER, Picus hirsutus, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. v.p. 184.

Male, 9; wing, 4 5/12.

From Lake Superior to the Arctic Sea. Abundant. Resident.

Adult Male.

Bill about the length of the head, straight, strong, angular, depressed at the base, compressed toward the tip, which is very slightly truncate and cuneate. Upper mandible with the dorsal line straight, the ridge very narrow, the sides sloping and flat, the lateral angle much nearer the edge, which is sharp, direct, and overlapping. Lower mandible with the angle short and rather wide, the dorsal line straight, the ridge narrow, the sides convex, the edges inflected, the tip pointed. Nostrils oblong, basal, concealed by the feathers, and placed near the margin.

Head large, ovate; neck rather short; body full. Feet very short; tarsus short, compressed, feathered anteriorly more than one-third down, scutellate in the rest of its extent, as well as behind on the inner side; toes three, the first wanting; the fourth or outer reversed toe considerably longer than the third, which is united to the inner at the base; all scutellate above. Claws large, much curved, compressed, laterally grooved, very acute.

Plumage very soft, full, blended. A large tuft of reversed stiffish feathers on each side of the base of the upper mandible, concealing the nostrils; the feathers in the angle of the lower mandible also stiffish and directed forwards. Wings rather long; the first quill very small, being only eleven-twelfths long, the second five-twelfths shorter than the third, which is one-twelfth shorter than the fourth, this being the longest, but scarcely exceeding the fifth; secondaries broad and rounded. Tail of moderate length, cuneate, of twelve feathers, of which the lateral, which are rounded and unworn, are only one inch long, the next, also unworn, are one inch and one-twelfth shorter than the middle.

Bill bluish-grey, dusky toward the end. Feet bluish-grey, the scutella and claws black. The general colour of the upper parts is deep glossy black, the head with blue reflections, the back and wings tinged with brown. The tufts over the nostrils are dull yellow; the anterior part of the head pale yellow, spotted with white; a band of white, with small dusky lines, passes from the angle of the mouth to the occiput; the back is transversely banded with white; the quills are brownish-black, spotted and tipped with white, the four longest primaries with seven spots on the outer, and five on the inner web, on most of the secondaries five on each web. The four middle tail-feathers are black, the next black, largely tipped with white, the rest white, but except the outer small feathers, with a black band at the base. The lower parts are white, excepting the sides, and lower wing-coverts, which are banded with black.

Length to end of tail 9 inches; bill along the ridge 1, along the edge of lower mandible 1 3/12; wing from flexure 4 5/12; tail 3 1/2; tarsus (9 1/2)/12; second toe 4/12, its claw (4 1/2)/12; third toe 7/12, its claw 6/12; fourth toe (7 1/2)/12, its claw 6/12.

Adult Female.

The female, which is somewhat smaller, differs from the male in wanting the yellow patch on the head, the whole of that part being black, with small white spots.

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