Living Bird Magazine
Nuttall's WoodpeckerDryobates nuttallii
- ORDER: Piciformes
- FAMILY: Picidae
In California's oak woodlands the small black-and-white striped Nuttall's Woodpecker hitches up branches and twigs of oaks, willows, and cottonwoods. It circles around branches in search of food and sometimes perches crosswise on a twig much like a sparrow might do. This year-round resident gives a metallic rattle and high-pitched pit most of the year. It looks very similar to the Ladder-backed Woodpecker, but there's almost no range overlap. The horizontal stripes across its back set it apart from Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers.More ID Info
Find This Bird
California's oak woodlands are the place to look for Nuttall's Woodpeckers. If you find an oak tree in California, even in suburban areas, there's a chance that a Nuttall's Woodpecker will be around. These small woodpeckers don't just forage on trunks and branches, they also forage on tiny stems in willows and alders where they might look more like a sparrow messing around in a shrub than a woodpecker. You'll probably hear the dry rattle before you see a Nuttall's Woodpecker, which will help you pinpoint its location. When they rattle they usually stay put, giving you time to find them.
- Pico de Nuttall (Spanish)
- Pic de Nuttall (French)
If you live in California's oak woodlands, putting up a suet feeder may bring a Nuttall's Woodpecker to your yard. Learn more about suet feeders at Project FeederWatch.
Plant native trees and shrubs to create friendly habitat for Nuttall's Woodpeckers and other species. Learn more at Habitat Network.
- Cool Facts
- In 1843 William Gambel named the small black-and-white woodpecker after Thomas Nuttall, an English botanist and ornithologist. Thomas Nuttall was perhaps better known as a botanist, but he also published a pioneering book on birds, A Manual of the Ornithology of the United States and Canada. His book and passion for nature also inspired the formation of the first organization in North America dedicated to birds in 1873, the Nuttall Ornithological Club.
- Although Nuttall's Woodpeckers are nearly confined to oak woodlands, they do not eat acorns.
- The oldest recorded Nuttall's Woodpecker was a female and at least 8 years, 9 months old when she was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in California in 2006. She had been banded in the same state in 2000.