The Nuttall’s Woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii) is found primarily in the oak woodlands of California and northern Baja California. It just so happens that I also live in the oak woodlands of California and was able to see these little woodpeckers feeding their young at their tree cavity nest last year.

This year, they are coming to my woodpecker feeder to find out what kind of goodies are in store.

This is a rather rare occurrence since the Nuttall’s Woodpecker feeds primarily on insects and arthropods, probing and gleaning them from the tree bark.

The bright red on the posterior crown and nape of this bird identifies it as a male. The female has no red markings.

This bird had just grabbed a nut from the feeder and shoved it into a gap in the tree bark to secure it as he ate.

The Nuttall’s Woodpecker is distinguished from the similar Ladder-backed Woodpecker by having more black on its face (narrower white markings) and narrower white bars on its back with the upper part of the back, below the nape, being all black.

The Nuttall’s also has more creamy colored lores than the Ladder-backed. Geographic location and their differing calls however, are probably the best indicators for a positive identification. The Nuttall’s likes a less arid environment than the Ladder-backed Woodpecker and their territories barely overlap with the Nuttall’s taking northern and western California and the Ladder-backed found in the south eastern part of the state, extending southward and eastward into Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico.

You can hear the difference in their calls, the Nuttall’s Woodpecker call here and the Ladder-backed here.

Like I said, they eat primarily insects and arthropods but here is the video of this California bird visiting my woodpecker feeder. Enjoy!

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.