Lewis's Woodpecker
(Melanerpes lewis)


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The Lewis's Woodpecker breeds in open ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir forests and grasslands, riparian cottonwood and old burns in southern British Columbia. A coastal population has been extirpated and the small wintering population has been reduced to one or two individuals. The Canadian breeding population is roughly estimated to be between 315 and 460 pairs (Environment Canada 2014). Results from the Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Count suggest that the species has undergone a large decrease in Canada since about 1970. In 2010, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada revised its assessment of this species to Threatened from Special Concern because of its small population and ongoing decline (COSEWIC 2010a, COSEWIC 2001). It was listed under the Species at Risk Act in 2012. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Threatened2010 
SARA (Canada)Threatened2012 
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Partners in Flight (North America)Watch list - yellow D2017 
Wild Species (Canada)Vulnerable2015 
State of North America’s BirdsWatch list2016 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLarge DecreaseMediumBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada< 1,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

Conservation and management

The Lewis's Woodpecker typically nests in open ponderosa pine forests, grasslands, and mature cottonwood stands. Conservation of suitable nest trees (or wildlife trees) in close proximity to good foraging habitat, including old-growth cottonwood, cessation of wildlife tree removal for firewood, modification of danger trees rather than complete removal, and prescribed burns to maintain an open understory in these forests are recommended (Environment Canada 2014, Vierling et al. 2013, (Macfarland 2016). The species also nests in burned-over pine and Douglas-fir forests, but these habitats are only available for less than 30 years before the new forests become too thick (Vierling et al. 2013). Primary threats for the species include: urban and agricultural development, fire suppression and problematic native and invasive species including pine beetle outbreaks and nest competition from European Starlings (ECCC 2017a). For information on the legal status of this species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and to view available recovery documents, see the SARA Registry.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Great BasinGreat Basin, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation & Stewardship
Northern Pacific RainforestNorthern Pacific Rainforest, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Other
Northern RockiesNorthern Rockies, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation