Nuttall's Woodpecker

Scientific Name: Picoides nuttallii

Pictures: (click for larger images)

A Nuttall's Woodpecker in a tree at the VA Center (north side of Wilshire just west of the 405).  This was probably a juvenile as the males have more red on their heads, and further back on the head.  Photo by Jay Fahlen, 6/12/05.
The same bird from a slightly different angle.  Notice the speckles on the side of its chest.  Photo by Jay Fahlen, 6/12/05.
Here you can see its whole body as it creeps along the branch.  Photo by Jay Fahlen, 6/12/05.

A Nuttall's Woodpecker, looks like he's trying to slupr bugs out of a hole he just pecked!  This was in a tree on the corner of Le Conte and Malcolm.  10/12/05.   Photo by Jason Finley.

Here's a great view of its back, which is one way to distinguish the Nuttall's from the (smaller and rarer) Downy Woodpekcer. 10/12/05.  Photo by Jason Finley.
Finally, you can see his flanks and a bit of breast here.  10/12/05.  Photo by Jason Finley.
A female Nuttall's Woodpecker in the Botanical Garden.  Notice the lack of red.  1/21/06.  Photo by Bobby Walsh.
Nuttall's Woodpecker Illustration

-Illustration by Robert C. Stebbins from "Birds of the Campus" (1947) by Dr. Loye Miller.

Description: Small. 7" in length (beak to tail), about the same size as a Sparrow.  Back/wings/tail black with white bars.  Chest is white with black speckles on the sides.  Head is black with some white stripes.  Males have red on the top/rear of their heads.  Females don't.  Juveniles of both sexes have some red on the head.  Beak is black and long (compared to body) for pecking holes!

Sound: Listen to a Nuttall's Woodpecker calling and then pecking!  Link is to the sound page for this bird from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds.

Commonality/Seasonality: Uncommon, but year-round.

Location: They have been seen in trees on the grassy slopes around the Janss Steps (and upper Bruin Walk near Moore Hall), at the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center, and in eucalyptus trees along Gayley Avenue.  They can also be seen, along with many other birds, at the VA Center (north side of Wilshire just west of the 405).

Notes: Its range (where it can be found in the world) is confined to California and northern Baja California.  Since they are small, you're most likely to find one by hearing it.  They peck on wood very rapidly, so it sounds like a sharp knocking at jackhammmer speeds.  Their call is distinctive too.  They can often be seen flying from tree to tree and climbing up and down tree trunks.


Much less common than the Willow Woodpecker but of much the same habit.  noted along the Arroyo (April 23, 1940). [note: Miller refers to the Willow Woodpecker, which we call the Downy Woodpecker.  The commonality of Nuttall's vs. Downy has been reversed since Miller's time: the Nuttall's are now more common than the Downies.]

-Miller, Loye.  "Birds of the Campus, University of California, Los Angeles," from University of California Syllabus Series, No. 300.  Text by Loye Miller, illustrations by Robert C. Stebbins.  Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1947.



Information compiled in 2005. Things on campus may have changed since then!          Links Forum History Map Bird Lists About Birds of Westwood Logo - Home