Nuttall's Woodpecker Juvenile

The Nuttall’s Woodpecker’s (Picoides nattallii) diet consists mainly of (about 80%) insects, primarily captured by probing and gleaning from tree bark. They also dine on some nuts and seeds but I never knew until I spotted this juvenile in our garden, that they also occasionally eat fruit! Click on photos for full sized images.

I first became aware of the bird’s presence when I heard the unmistakable raspy flight call this species utters, usually as it moves from one location to another. You can hear the Nuttall’s Woodpecker drumming, followed by the flight call in this recording.

Nuttall's Woodpecker Juvenile

It is difficult to tell if this bird (above) is a male or female because both juvenile Nuttall’s Woodpeckers have the red crown feathers mixed with white. Note that the red does not extend back toward the nape. On the other hand, the posterior crown, occiput and nape of the adult male (this one photographed at my woodpecker feeder) is bright red.

Nuttall's Woodpecker Male Adult

The adult female, seen here at the nest cavity a few years ago, has no red at all.

Nuttall's Woodpecker Female Adult

I followed this California endemic, from its call, to an oak tree near the garden.

Nuttall's Woodpecker Juvenile

S/he was foraging for insects in the oak tree bark, and then, at one point, engaged in a behavior I had never seen before. The bird laid down flat on the branch, with its wings hanging over the sides, and looked as if it was nap time.

Nuttall's Woodpecker Juvenile

It soon decided to move to the top of a dead lower limb of another oak and preen.

Nuttall's Woodpecker Juvenile

Once finished with several juvenile contortions and looking at times as if it was going to fall off of the dead stump this beautiful little woodpecker struck a great pose …

Nuttall's Woodpecker Juvenile

just before flying to the plum tree …

Nuttall's Woodpecker Juvenile

where it quickly made its way …

Nuttall's Woodpecker Juvenile

to the higher branches …

Nuttall's Woodpecker Juvenile

to enjoy …

Nuttall's Woodpecker Juvenile

the fruits of my labor.

Nuttall's Woodpecker Juvenile

But that’s OK. I certainly enjoy hearing that raspy call and watching this California native doing his or her thing in my very own yard 😉

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Written by Larry
Larry Jordan was introduced to birding after moving to northern California where he was overwhelmed by the local wildlife, forcing him to buy his first field guide just to be able to identify all the species visiting his yard. Building birdhouses and putting up feeders brought the avian fauna even closer and he was hooked. Larry wanted to share his passion for birds and conservation and hatched The Birder's Report in September of 2007. His recent focus is on bringing the Western Burrowing Owl back to life in California where he also monitors several bluebird trails. He is a BirdLife Species Champion and contributes to several other conservation efforts, being the webmaster for Wintu Audubon Society and the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Urban Bird Foundation. He is now co-founder of a movement to create a new revenue stream for our National Wildlife Refuges with a Wildlife Conservation Pass.