U.S. Joint Fire Science Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



Fire Science Brief, Issue 39, February 2009


US government work.


The Black-backed Woodpecker is an uncommon bird of the northern coniferous forests of North America. It is one of several species of fauna that are considered fire specialists. This woodpecker nests in cavities it creates in dead standing trees and feeds on wood-boring beetles and their larvae, which are also attracted to stressed or burned trees. Because the bird can be seen and heard from a distance, its population dynamics can be used to estimate the suitability of habitat to support both fl ora and fauna that have evolved in a natural regime of severe fire. In the effort to return the forests to a condition more in tune with historical norms, resource managers will need to embrace the concept that severe, stand-replacing fi res that do not threaten life or property are not all bad. They are, in fact, essential for the survival of a variety of fi re-dependent species.