- ORDER: Piciformes
- FAMILY: Picidae
The White-headed Woodpecker is an unusual woodpecker restricted to mountainous pine forests of the western states and British Columbia. It’s a glossy black bird with a gleaming white head and neck, augmented in males with a red crown patch. White-headed Woodpeckers feed heavily on large pine seeds, and are most associated with old-growth ponderosa pine and sugar pine forests. They also often use recently burned areas. They tend not to drill into wood to get insects, but rather flake away bark or probe into needle clusters.More ID Info
Find This Bird
To find White-headed Woodpeckers, look for large pines, particularly ponderosa pine and sugar pine. Keep an eye on these pines' large cones, as White-headeds often cling to them to extract the large seeds inside. They are not as noisy in foraging as other woodpeckers, but they do drum during the spring, and this can help you narrow in on them as well.
- Pico Cabeciblanco (Spanish)
- Pic à tête blanche (French)
If you live in mountain pine forests, White-headed Woodpeckers may come to feeders that offer suet.
- Cool Facts
- The White-headed Woodpecker sometimes places its nest holes in stumps, and even in leaning or fallen logs.
- When a White-headed Woodpecker forages at pine cones it usually clings to the sides and bottoms of the cone to avoid getting the sticky sap on its feathers. To eat large pine seeds, the woodpecker wedges them into a crevice in the bark of the tree, where it hammers the seed to break it apart.
- Both the male and female incubate the eggs, with the male doing all the nighttime work. Pairs are very attentive to each other during incubation, and often communicate by soft drumming from both inside and outside the nest cavity.
- The White-headed Woodpecker was first described to science by John Cassin, from a specimen John Graham Bell collected in El Dorado County, California, during the height of the gold rush. Cassin first classified it in genus Leuconerpes (meaning “white creeper”) but later moved it to its own genus, Xenopicus (“strange woodpecker” or “strange bill,” perhaps because of its short tongue). It’s now in the genus Dryobates (meaning “tree walker”).
- The oldest recorded White-headed Woodpecker was a female, and at least 4 years, 1 month old, when she was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Washington.