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Nuttall’s Woodpecker: Surprisingly Flexible To Get Food

Nuttall’s Woodpecker: Surprisingly Flexible To Get Food

Spotted on a Lazy Morning

One morning, I wandered out for breakfast and saw a Nuttall’s Woodpecker (Picoides nuttalli) on a nearby oak. Quickly forgetting about breakfast, I ran to get my camera. Then, I snuck outside and creeped slowly toward the oak tree. I saw not one, but four!

The male quickly jumped to another oak with the smaller two. However, the female looked at me curiously and ignored me. I stayed put, knowing I wasn’t bothering her. She jumped quickly around pecking here, pecking there. I followed her with my camera as she bounced up and down the oak.

I was surprised to see how flexible her neck became when she got to a good spot. In those areas, she would pause for longer and maneuver her head in some crazy directions. She always seemed to get the right angle.

She stayed longer than I thought she would. After about fifteen minutes, she flew to the next oak down the line and found some food there. I guess she did not find too much because she flew back shortly there after.

I stayed and watched until my stomach grumbled and I quietly backed away to go eat breakfast while she ate hers.

Nuttall's Woodpecker getting food.
Getting a Better Angle on the Food



Nuttall’s Woodpecker General Characteristics:

  • Black and White back with narrow white stripes
  • White belly with black spots along sides of belly
  • Males have a red spot toward the back of the crown, females do not
  • Tail feathers have more spots than stripes
  • Nests usually in dead standing trees
  • Most of diet is insects, but some acorns

Woodpecker on the side of an oak.
On an Oak.


They especially likes oaks and being near streams.


Most of California with some in Baja, Mexico and a bit of southern Oregon

Nuttall’s Woodpecker & the Traveling Nature Journal

Nuttall's Woodpecker Nature Journal
Nuttall’s Woodpecker in my Nature Journal.

I used Nat Geo’s Birds of Western North America to make sure I saw a Nuttall’s Woodpecker. In this area of California, the ranges of the Nuttall’s Woodpecker slightly overlaps with the Ladder Backed Woodpecker. I find this field guide to have enough photos to properly make the distinction. I may have triple checked this one, but the photos clearly showed it as a Nuttall’s Woodpecker.

When I approached this spread, I began by sketching the female Nuttall’s Woodpecker. Obviously, it could use some work, but I was a bit rusty. I used the photo in the spread to sketch. Next, I printed the photo out and used double sided tape to add them. I definitely like adding in the sketch and photo first. If I write everything first, sometimes I struggle to add the photo and sketch!

For this spread, I kept the identifying characteristics section small. I wanted as much space as possible for the field notes. As I wrote, they poured out of me. I probably could have written more about how graceful this female Nuttall’s Woodpecker moved and ate.

This species appeared in both January and February’s Species Lists for me.

Woodpecker on tree.
Nuttall’s Woodpecker Eating Breakfast