Saturday, August 27, 2011

Strickland's Woodpecker

This handsome woodpecker is a male Strickland's Woodpecker, a shy and little studied Mexican endemic found only in a small part of the central volcanic belt of Mexico, where it occurs in open pine woodland above 2500 masl (Howell & Webb 1995).

Between 1983 and 2000, the AOU considered this and Arizona Woodpecker to be one species, the Strickland's Woodpecker. Arizona Woodpecker reaches down south through Mexico's central volcanic belt, and is replaced by Strickland's Woodpecker in central Mexico, where it has a very small, east-west range.

I found this bird yesterday on the slopes of the Cofre de Perote, a 4250 m peak near the border with Puebla. The high elevation makes for a completely different habitat and bird community, with many species common here that are not found in the coastal plain. Some familiar 'temperate zone' species become mountain dwellers here in Mexico, like for example Golden-crowned Kinglet, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Loggerhead Shrike and American Robin. Here they are found with regional highland endemics such as Red Warbler, Collared Towhee, Yellow-eyed Junco, Mexican Chickadee, Striped Sparrow, and Gray Silky-flycatcher. Early yesterday morning I took the first bus to Perote, and from there a taxi up to a small community called El Conejo ("The Rabbit"), where the forest is mostly spruce and fir going up, and pines mixed with broadleaf going down. Located at about 3000 masl, it's quite a climb and I suffered a bit of altitude sickness when I got there, a dizzy spell that lasted about 30 minutes or so. It was worth it.

Cited literature:
Howell, S.N.G. & S. Webb. 1995. A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

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