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Gila Woodpecker in San Diego County, California

Leon L. Gardner
Publication Information
6 (November-December)
From Field and Study

Gila Woodpecker in San Diego County, California.-During midday on October 17, 1952, I was driving on a seldom used side road in the mountains near Jacumba, 70 miles east of San Diego, California, at an altitude of 2800 feet, when I heard a whining squeal which I recognized as the voice of a Gila Woodpecker (Centurus uropygiolis) . Somewhat surprised to hear that familiar high-pitched nasal call in such Upper Sonoran surroundings I stopped the car and located the bird a short distance ahead on a 20-foot pole. The woodpecker sidled around the pole, appearing on both sides and on top, ducking and bowing its head and noisily calling in habitual fashion as I advanced afoot. After close and detailed observation I flushed the woodpecker from the pole and clearly saw the characteristic white wing patches.

Some years later in a casual conversation with Mr. Laurence Huey and Mr. James Sams of the San Diego Museum of Natural History, I mentioned this observation of which I had made written notation and was much surprised to learn that no specimen of a Gila Woodpecker had ever been collected in San Diego County nor was there on record any sight identification. That a Gila Woodpecker should never before have been sighted in the mountains along the extreme eastern boundary of San Diego County seems strange.

Gila Woodpeckers frequent regions on two sides of Jacumba: to the east in Imperial Valley scarcely 50 air miles distant, and to the south not more than 60 air miles away in the rugged, isolated palm canyons that cut the precipitous east face of the Sierra JuLrez of Baja California. I have found them common there at altitudes up to 2000 feet. The mountain chain on which Jacumba is situated is nothing more than a northward extension of the Sierra Juarez. It would be no great aerial feat for Gila Woodpeckers to wander northward to Jacumba or beyond following this cordillera. The altitude of Jacumba would be no bar to the Gila Woodpecker. Bent (Bull. U. S. Nat. Mus. No. 174:250-256) states that it ranges up to 4000 or even 4.500 feet in the canyons and foothills of its normal habitat, adding that this woodpecker seems somewhat given to wandering in fall and spring, reaching to such higher altitudes.-LEON L. GARDNER, Department of Public Health, San Diego, California, March 20, 1959

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