Illustration: Nuttall's woodpecker

Illustration by Donald L. Malick

Map

Map: Nuttall's woodpecker range

Audio

Endemic to oak and missed woodlands in California and northwestern Baja California, the Nuttall’s is closely related to the ladder-backed. Monotypic. Length 7" (19 cm).

Identification “Ladder-back” pattern; spotted sides; barred flanks; auriculars almost wholly black; uppermost back black. Sexes similar but females lack red patch on nape and hindcrown.

Similar Species Compared with ladder-backed, Nuttall’s shows more black on face; white bars on back are narrower; more extensive black on upper back below nape; white outer tail feathers sparsely spotted rather than barred. Nuttall’s underparts are purer white below, more cleanly spotted and barred with black; ladder-backed’s underparts are washed with buffy, and markings are finer but often extend across the breast as short streaks. Nuttall’s nasal tufts are usually white (buffy to dusky in ladder-backed). Red of male is restricted on Nuttall’s; in ladder-backed red covers most of crown, but is spotted with black and white on forecrown. Calls differ markedly.

Voice Call: a short, rolling prrt or pitit that may be followed by a longer trill, prrt prrt prrrrrrrrrrrrr; also a loud kweek kweek kweek series. Drum: A steady roll of about 20 taps over a second.

Status and Distribution Common. Year-round: oak woodlands, mixed oak-conifer and oak-riparian woodlands, and tall dense chaparral; sea level to about 6,000 feet. Small populations extend onto deserts along riparian corridors. Vagrant: a few wander to deserts of south-central California, casually to Imperial Valley; southwestern Oregon, western Nevada.

Population Generally stable.

—From the National Geographic book Complete Birds of North America, 2006

Bird Features

  • Photo: A red bird with black wings on a branch

    Backyard Birding Central

    Want to learn more about our feathered friends of the sky? Visit our Backyard Birding site for facts, photos, videos, and more.

  • Illustration: Great horned owl

    What's That Bird?

    Identify your backyard visitors in a flash! Just answer four simple questions to search our database of 150 backyard birds common to Canada and the U.S.

See More Bird Features »

Bird News

See More Animal News »

Birds A-Z

The Innovators Project

See more innovators »

National Geographic Magazine

From the Magazine

  1. Photo: Two adult preen, Ireland

    Gannets Pictures

    Champion divers but clumsy landers, doting parents but hostile neighbors—northern gannets abound in contradictions.

  2. Photo: Silent Ural owl

    Estonia's Ural Owls

    Photographer Sven Začek provides an intimate view of this large raptor.