Woodpeckers live in every place in the world except Australia, Antarctica, Madagascar, New Zealand and the Arctic Circle. More than 50 species of woodpecker exist in the United States, Mexico and Canada. The woodpecker's latitudinal range stretches from the lower reaches of Chile in South America to northern Canada.
The conditions that generally make for good woodpecker habitats are trees and shrubs, but woodpeckers are also able to survive in open, rocky areas and arid deserts. Woodpeckers are commonly found in forests and heavily wooded areas, but they can also exist in suburban areas if there are enough dead or fallen trees lying around. In the deserts of the southwest United States and in Mexico, woodpeckers often peck their homes into giant saguaro cacti.
Woodpeckers are able to flourish across a wide variety of habitats because of their ability to construct their homes high in the safer upper reaches of trees. Woodpeckers are able to peck at a speed of up to twenty times per second. This jackhammer-like action of drumming their beaks into the wood of a tree does not hurt woodpeckers because their skulls are reinforced and designed to distribute the force of the impact, and their brains are well-cushioned and protected.