Ladder-backed WoodpeckerPicoides scalaris

adult male
Jim Culbertson/VIREO
adult female
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
adult male
Rolf Nussbaumer/VIREO
Ladder-backed Woodpecker



7" (18 cm). Barred black and white back; strong facial pattern forms triangle on buffy-white cheek. Male has red cap, female has black cap.


A sharp pik, similar to that of Downy Woodpecker; also a descending whinny.


more calls
peek & sputter calls #2
peek & sputter calls #1
peek calls #1


Arid areas with thickets and trees.


Resident in southwestern United States from California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas south into tropics.


Within most of its range, the Ladder-back is the only small woodpecker so marked. The most numerous member of its family in Texas, it replaces the Downy Woodpecker in more arid areas. Familiar and trusting, it frequents ranches, yards in rural areas, and parks. It is closely related to Nuttall's Woodpecker of California.


4 or 5 white eggs in a hole in a tree, cactus, pole, or post.

Similar Species

adult male

Gila Woodpecker

8-10" (20-25 cm). Barred with black and white above; buff below and on neck and head. Male has small red cap. Female and juvenile similar, but lack red cap. White wing patches are prominent in flight.

adult male

Arizona Woodpecker

7-8" (18-20 cm). An unstreaked, brown-backed woodpecker, with brown crown and brown ear patch on white face. Underparts spotted and barred with brown. Male distinguished by red nape.

adult male

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

8" (20 cm). Cap and nape black; large white cheek patch; back barred black and white; white below with black spots on sides and flanks. Male has small, hard-to-see red spot behind eye.

adult male

Nuttall's Woodpecker

7-7 1/2" (18-19 cm). Similar to Ladder-backed Woodpecker, but with black cheeks and wider black bars on back; black and white areas more sharply contrasting.

adult male, Eastern

Downy Woodpecker

6" (15 cm). A sparrow-sized, black and white woodpecker. Small red patch on nape in males. Similar to Hairy Woodpecker, but smaller and with short, stubby bill.

adult male, Interior West

Hairy Woodpecker

9" (23 cm). A robin-sized woodpecker. Black and white, with unspotted white back and long bill; male has red head patch. Like most woodpeckers it has an undulating flight. See Downy Woodpecker.

adult male

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

9 1/2" (24 cm). Barred with black and white above and buff below, like Red-bellied Woodpecker, but male has red restricted to cap; nape orange; forecrown yellow; female lacks red but has orange nape.

adult male

Red-bellied Woodpecker

10" (25 cm). Barred black and white above; pale buff below and on face; sexes similar except that male has red crown and nape, female red nape only.


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