15 Species of Woodpeckers in California

There are 15 species of woodpeckers in California. They include the downy woodpecker, northern flicker, acorn woodpecker, white-headed woodpecker, ladder-backed woodpecker, red-naped sapsucker, Lewis’s woodpecker, Williamson Sapsucker, Nuttall’s woodpecker, red-breasted sapsucker, hairy woodpecker, Gila woodpecker, black-backed woodpecker, American three-toed woodpecker, and the gilded flicker.

Woodpeckers can be found in various places, including suburban backyards, woodlands, and forests. This resource is a guide to identifying and learning more about these birds in detail or finding out which kind lives near you in California.

Some people see woodpeckers as a nuisance since they can cause damage to buildings and houses, especially cedar siding. Others see them as good as they eat insects and keep the insect population in check.

No matter which way you see them woodpeckers are interesting creatures and provide a beautiful sound when pecking.

All woodpeckers are protected by the federal migratory bird treaty act which makes it unlawful to kill, harm, hunt, etc. any species of woodpecker.

Where To Find Woodpeckers In California

Here are some places in California where you can find woodpeckers.

  1. Sierra Nevada Mountains: The Sierra Nevada range, stretching through the eastern part of California, offers diverse habitats for woodpeckers. Explore areas such as Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and Inyo National Forest to spot species like the Acorn Woodpecker, Black-backed Woodpecker, and White-headed Woodpecker.
  2. Redwood National and State Parks: Located along the northern coast of California, these parks are renowned for their towering redwood trees. Look for woodpecker species such as the Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, and Hairy Woodpecker while exploring the old-growth forests in these parks.
  3. Point Reyes National Seashore: Situated on the Marin Peninsula, Point Reyes National Seashore offers a combination of coastal habitats and woodlands. Look for woodpeckers such as the Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, and Red-breasted Sapsucker as you explore the forests and coastal areas of the park.
  4. Los Padres National Forest: Located along the central and southern coast of California, Los Padres National Forest provides diverse habitats for woodpeckers. Explore areas such as the Santa Lucia Range and San Rafael Wilderness to potentially encounter species like the Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, and Acorn Woodpecker.
  5. Joshua Tree National Park: This unique desert park in southeastern California is home to various woodpecker species. Look for the Gila Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and Northern Flicker while exploring the park’s desert habitats and oases.
  6. San Bernardino National Forest: Situated in Southern California, the San Bernardino National Forest offers a mix of mountainous and forested areas where woodpeckers can be found. Look for species such as the Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Acorn Woodpecker, and Black-backed Woodpecker as you explore the forested trails and campgrounds.

Woodpeckers in California

 1. acorn woodpeckers

Scientific Name: Melanerpes formicivorus Size: 8-9 inches

Description And Field Marks

The Acorn Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker species native to western North America. Both males and females look similar with the head, neck, and upper parts mostly black.

The forehead and crown are pale white, forming a distinct cap that extends to the nape and the face has a unique pattern with a white eye ring and a black line extending from the bill to the eyes, resembling a mask. They have a strong, pointed bill, which is often used to excavate holes for caching acorns.


Acorn Woodpeckers often nest in large groups, forming colonies consisting of a few individuals to over a dozen birds. Within a colony, there is a dominant breeding pair that is responsible for most of the reproduction. while other members assist in raising the young.

They excavate nesting cavities in dead or decaying parts of trees. Acorn Woodpeckers are known for their extensive excavation work, creating numerous holes in trees, not only for nesting but also for storing acorns. They can raise multiple broods in a single breeding season.


Acorns are the mainstay of an Acorn Woodpecker’s diet. They are highly specialized in harvesting, storing, and consuming acorns. The woodpeckers collect acorns from oak trees, and they create small holes or “granaries” in tree trunks or other structures to store the acorns for future use. These granaries can contain thousands of acorns and serve as a food source during leaner times.

Acorn Woodpeckers supplement their diet with a variety of fruits and berries, insects, and even tree sap.


Acorn Woodpeckers have a strong affinity for oak trees and are often found in oak woodlands or forests. These habitats provide them with an abundant supply of acorns.

Their range is primarily concentrated in the western parts of North America, including California, Oregon, Washington, and parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico.

Acorn Woodpeckers can be found throughout California all year long.

Call And Drumming

Their calls include a distinctive, high-pitched “waka-waka-waka” or a series of nasal “kwirr” notes.

2. red-breasted sapsuckers

Scientific Name: Sphyrapicus ruber Size: 8.5-9.5 inches

Description And Field Marks

The plumage of the Red-breasted Sapsucker is striking and easily recognizable:

  • Head and Neck: The head and neck are predominantly black, contrasting with a bright red forehead and a red throat patch.
  • Breast and Belly: The breast and upper belly of the Red-breasted Sapsucker are pale red, transitioning to a white or pale yellow color on the lower belly.
  • Back and Wings: The back is mostly black with fine white barring or spotting. The wings are black with a broad white stripe along the leading edge.
  • Tail: The tail is black with white outer tail feathers, forming a distinctive white patch when the bird is in flight.
  • Face: Has a white or pale yellowish stripe that extends from the base of the bill, through the eye, and towards the back of the head.


Red-breasted Sapsuckers typically excavate their nests in dead or decaying trees with both the male and female building the nest. The female lays 4 to 7 eggs, which are white and glossy, and is responsible for incubating the eggs. The male provides her with food during this period which lasts around 11 to 13 days.

Once the eggs hatch, both parents contribute to the care of the nestlings. They feed the young with regurgitated insects and occasionally with tree sap. The nestlings remain in the nest for about 24 to 30 days before fledging.


The diet of Red-breasted Sapsuckers primarily consists of tree sap, but they also consume insects and supplement their diet with fruits and berries during certain seasons.


Red-breasted Sapsuckers inhabit coniferous and mixed forests, particularly those with mature trees. They can be found in mountainous regions, as well as in coastal areas.

Red-breasted sapsuckers can be found in California year-round. Look for them in regions such as the Sierra Nevada, coastal forests, or the mixed forests of northern California. Also, local parks, state parks, and national forests in California. Areas such as Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and Point Reyes National Seashore are all good places to see these birds.

Call And Drumming

The Red-breasted Sapsucker produces various calls, including a distinct “mewing” sound and a rattling or drumming sound that is used for territorial communication.

3. red-naped sapsuckers

Scientific Name: Sphyrapicus nuchalis Size: 7 to 9 inches

Description And Field Marks

The Red-naped Sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker with black and white plumage with yellow and red accents. Its upper parts are black-barred with white, and it has a bold white stripe across each wing. It has yellowish bellies, black breast bands, and red throats. Its head is bright red with black stripes through and above the eyes.

The beak of Red-Naped Sapsuckers is short and straight. Males and females look much alike, but females usually have less red on their throats and napes.


The Red-naped Sapsucker creates its nest typically in healthy aspen trees or dead conifers. They use their powerful feet and stiff tail feathers to hitch up and down the tree bark and begin to drill circular and rectangular holes. Once they have excavated the nest cavity, they will line it with woodchips.

Once the nest is ready, the female lays 3-7 white eggs which need to be incubated for 12-13 days with a nesting period of about a month. Both the male and female look after the young. The Red-naped Sapsucker may reuse their old nests or build new nests in the same tree.


The Red-naped Sapsucker is an omnivore and primarily feeds on sap from trees such as willow, birch, alder, and chokecherry. They drill rectangular or circular holes into the inner bark of these trees and lap up the sap using their specialized tongue.

They also consume insects such as ants, spiders, beetles, flies, fruits, and seeds. During the nesting season, they eat more insects to feed their young. Red-naped Sapsuckers are also known to visit bird feeders for breadcrumbs.


The Red-naped sapsucker is a short-distance migratory bird and is found in the western parts of the United States, from Washington to Montana, going down to Los Angeles and New Mexico, and moving past the Gulf of California to Mexico.

During the breeding season, it is mainly found in deciduous and evergreen forests, as well as gardens, yards, and forest edges from elevations of 1,000 to 10,000 feet. They also inhabit coastal forests comprised mainly of dead trees or large snags, as well as mixed coniferous forests, open- and closed-canopy forests, burns, and clear-cuts, if there are some remaining standing trees. In addition, they may inhabit orchards and woodlands.

Red-naped Sapsuckers are active year-round, but they may be more vocal and easier to spot during the breeding season, which typically occurs from April to July. Look for them in regions such as the Sierra Nevada, the coastal ranges, or the mixed forests of northern California. Also in Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Point Reyes National Seashore, and Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

Call And Drumming

Both males and females use the scream, squeal, and waa call

4. white-headed woodpecker

Scientific Name: Picoides albolarvatus Size: 8-9 inches

Description And Field Marks

The White-headed Woodpecker has striking black and white plumage. Its head, neck, and throat are pure white, contrasting sharply with the rest of its body, which is primarily black. The wings and back are black, with prominent white patches on the wings that are visible in flight. The underparts, including the belly, are also white. The male also has a small red patch on the nape of their necks.


These woodpeckers excavate their own nesting cavities in dead or decaying trees. The nesting cavity is created by both the male and female, who take turns excavating the hole. The entrance hole is usually a circular or slightly oval shape. The only material put in the cavity is wood chips for the nesting floor.

The female lays 3 to 5 glossy white eggs. Both the male and female take turns incubating the eggs for about 12 to 14 days. Both parents also participate in feeding the nestlings. The young leave the nest 24 to 27 days after hatching.


The White-headed Woodpecker is often seen foraging on the trunks and branches of trees, where it searches for insects, beetles, and their larvae. It may also feed on seeds and pine nuts.


The White-headed Woodpecker is typically found in coniferous forests, particularly those with mature pine trees.

White-headed Woodpeckers can be found in California year-round. Look for them in areas such as Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Lassen Volcanic National Park, or the Tahoe National Forest.

Call And Drumming

Its call is a sharp, metallic “peek” or “tchik” sound.

5. gilded flicker

Scientific Name: Colaptes chrysoides Size: 11 to 12 inches

Description And Field Marks

The male Gilded Flicker has a golden-yellow head, nape, and upper breast. The rest of its body is a pale brownish-tan color. It has a black crescent-shaped patch on its upper breast, and its back is barred with black. The flight feathers are black with white spots, and the tail is black with white edges and a white rump.

The female Gilded Flicker has a grayish-brown head and nape, lacking the golden-yellow coloration of the male. The rest of its plumage is similar to that of the male, with a pale brownish-tan body, black crescent-shaped patch on the upper breast, and black barring on the back.

Both male and female Gilded Flickers have a black mustache mark that extends from the base of the bill to the ear and the bill is long, slightly curved, and grayish in color.


Gilded Flickers typically excavate their nest cavities in dead or decaying trees, with both the male and female building the nest. The female lays a clutch of 3 to 5 white eggs. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs, with the male often incubating during the day and the female at night. The incubation period is 11 to 14 days.

Both parents take turns feeding the nestlings until they leave the nest after approximately 25 to 30 days.


The diet of the Gilded Flicker primarily consists of insects and fruits.


Gilded Flickers are often found in arid and desert habitats with a mix of trees and open areas. They are often found near water sources.

Gilded Flickers can be seen in California all year long. Look for them in regions such as the Mojave Desert, Colorado Desert, or Sonoran Desert in California.

Bird Notes:

Gilded Flickers and Northern Flickers are two distinct species of woodpeckers. While they share some similarities, there are several differences between them.

Call And Drumming

The call of the Gilded Flicker is a loud, repeated “wick-a-wick-a-wick,” reminiscent of the Northern Flicker but faster and higher in pitch.

6. Gila woodpecker

Scientific Name: Melanerpes uropygialis Size: 8-10 inches

Description And Field Marks

The head, neck, and upper parts of the Gila Woodpecker are primarily brown or gray-brown in color. They have a crown on the head and the nape are black, forming a distinct black cap. The face features a bold, black eye stripe extending from the bill to the neck, contrasting with a pale yellow or beige color around the eyes and throat. The underparts are a pale yellow or buff color.

Gila Woodpecker is its black cap and face markings, including the black eye stripe and pale yellow or beige areas around the eyes and throat.


Gila Woodpeckers are cavity nesters, and both males and females participate in excavating the nesting cavity. They typically breed from late spring to early summer. The female lays a clutch of 2-5 white eggs, and both parents take turns incubating them for about 14 days. After hatching, both parents contribute to feeding the chicks until they fledge, which occurs around 26-30 days after hatching.


The Gila Woodpecker has a diverse diet that primarily consists of insects and other invertebrates. Gila Woodpeckers have a unique adaptation that allows them to extract nectar from flowers. They are known to feed on the nectar of various desert plants,

Gila Woodpeckers also consume seeds. They may feed on the seeds of desert plants like mesquite, acacia, and other trees or shrubs that produce seed pods. In some instances, Gila Woodpeckers feed on tree sap.


Gila Woodpeckers are often found in desert and arid regions of California, such as the Mojave Desert, Colorado Desert, or Sonoran Desert. Look for them in areas with suitable vegetation, including saguaro cacti, palo verde trees, or mesquite trees.

Gila Woodpeckers are resident birds in California and can be observed throughout the year as they do not migrate. They are found in the desert and arid regions of California, such as the Mojave Desert, Colorado Desert, or the Sonoran Desert. Look for them in areas with suitable vegetation, including saguaro cacti, palo verde trees, or mesquite trees.

Call And Drumming

Gila Woodpeckers have various calls, including a series of loud, rolling “cha-cha-cha” notes or a rapid, chattering “rattle.” They can also produce drumming sounds on wood, which are typically slower and softer than those of larger woodpeckers.

7. Williamson’s sapsucker

Scientific Name: Sphyrapicus thyroideus  Size: 8-11 inches

Description And Field Marks

They are medium-sized woodpeckers the size of a robin. Males are mostly black with a yellow patch on their belly and white on their wings and behind their eyes. Females are black and white with brown heads.


The nesting pair selects a live tree to make its nest usually in large, older trees. They lay 4 to 6 glossy white eggs and only have one brood per breeding season. The eggs are incubated for 12 to 14 days.


Williamson’s Sapsuckers mainly eat sap from coniferous trees. They also eat ants and beetles by picking them from the live trees and branches.


In California, Williamson’s Sapsuckers can be found in coniferous forests, mixed conifer-hardwood forests, and montane habitats. They are most commonly observed in the Sierra Nevada range, including areas such as Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, and Kings Canyon National Park during the breeding season from April to September.

Call And Drumming

8. Nuttall’s woodpecker

Scientific Name: Picoides nuttallii  Size: 6 to 7 inches

Description And Field Marks

Nuttall’s Woodpecker is a small to medium-sized woodpecker species found in the western parts of the United States. They have a compact body shape with a relatively short tail and a sturdy bill. They are agile climbers and frequently move up and down tree trunks in a vertical pattern.

The upper parts of Nuttall’s Woodpecker are primarily black, including the back, wings, and tail. The face, throat, and underparts are mostly white. They have a distinctive black patch around the eye, extending towards the nape of the neck and the male has a small red patch on the back of its head.

Nuttall’s Woodpeckers have white patches on the wings that are visible both in flight and the tail is black with white outer tail feathers, which create a noticeable white outer edge.


Both the male and female participate in the excavation of the nest cavity. They use their bills to peck and chip away at the wood, creating a rounded cavity shape nest that takes several weeks to complete.

The female Nuttall’s Woodpecker lays a clutch of 4 to 6 white eggs. Both the male and female take turns incubating the eggs for 12 to 14 days. Both parents also participate in caring for the young feeding them a diet consisting primarily of insects. The nestlings remain in the nest for 25 to 30 days before they fledge.


Nuttall’s Woodpeckers are insectivorous and feed on a wide range of insects. They use their strong bills to drill into tree bark and probe for insects hiding within. Their diet includes beetles, ants, caterpillars, termites, and other small arthropods. They also consume tree sap.


Nuttall’s Woodpeckers are year-round residents in California. They are more common in the central and southern parts of the state compared to the northern regions. Look for Nuttall’s Woodpeckers in oak woodlands, oak savannas, oak-pine forests, and riparian corridors. They tend to prefer habitats with mature trees and a mix of open spaces.

They can be found in various counties, including but not limited to: Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Kern, Fresno, and parts of the Central Valley.

Call And Drumming

Their vocalizations include a sharp, high-pitched “peek” or “peenk” call, often repeated rapidly.

9. Ladder-backed woodpeckers

Scientific Name: Picoides scalaris  Size: 6.3-7.1 inches

Description And Field Marks

A ladder-backed woodpecker is a small woodpecker the size between a sparrow and a robin. It is primarily colored black and white, with a barred pattern on its back and wings resembling the rungs of a ladder. The male has a red crown patch while the females have a black crown. Juveniles are similar to adult males, though the red is less extensive.


The ladder-backed Woodpecker typically nests in a cavity excavated in a tree, large cactus, utility pole, or fencepost, usually 4-20′ above ground, although sometimes higher. Both sexes may excavate the cavity, but the male may do most of the work.

The pair may remain together for most of the year, performing displays such as raising head feathers, bobbing and turning the head, spreading wings and tail, and taking flight for territorial defense.

The female usually lays 3-4 white eggs, which hatch at about 13 days. Both parents feed the young insects, but the age when the young leave the nest is not well known.


The Ladder-backed Woodpecker has an omnivorous diet, primarily composed of insects such as wood-boring beetles, leafworms, caterpillars, ants, true bugs, and some insect larvae. They will also feed on berries and cactus fruit when necessary.

They may also come for mealworms offered at feeding stations, peanut butter, and black oil sunflower seeds. Additionally, they may be attracted to suet feeders in the northern parts of their range.


The Ladder-backed woodpecker is primarily found in dry brushy areas and thickets deserts, such as the southeastern corner of California into Mexico. They may also inhabit treeless areas such as deserts, desert scrubs, and thorn forests with elevations of up to 7,600 feet.

The Ladder-backed Woodpeckers can be seen year-round in California in the southeastern and southern parts of the state, particularly in desert and desert-scrub habitats. Look for them in Imperial, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and parts of eastern Kern and Los Angeles counties. Their range extends into the desert regions near the Mexico border.

Call And Drumming

The Ladder-backed Woodpecker’s vocalizations and calls include a repeated, high-pitched “pik,” a slightly descending “jee jee jee” series, and a slower “kweek kweek kweek.” Its drum is an uncomplicated roll

10. black-backed woodpecker

Scientific Name: Picoides arcticus  Size: 9.1 inches

Description And Field Marks

The black-backed woodpecker is a species of bird that is a native North American woodpecker. It is considered important because it plays an essential role in the boreal forest ecosystem, contributing to fire maintenance and creating habitats for other wildlife.

This predominantly black woodpecker has some white markings on it by the underbelly, throat, and above its bill. Males and juveniles have a yellow patch on the top of their heads which is missing in the adult female. It is the same size as the Hairy Woodpecker.


The black-backed woodpecker builds its nest in trees or on branches, usually excavating cavities into dead trees or stumps. The female lays between two to six white eggs. Both parents share the duties of incubating the eggs and raising their young. After hatching, both parents feed and care for their young until they fledge at around 28 days old.


The Black-backed Woodpecker is an essential part of the food chain in Wyoming, as it primarily eats wood-boring insects and larvae. It also has a significant role in dispersing fungi spores from tree trunks, helping maintain healthy forests.


They also find burnt forests and insect-infested forests and make them their home.

The black-backed woodpecker can be found primarily in the northern boreal forests of Canada and the northern part of the United States. ln California you may see in the northernmost parts of the state, closer to the Oregon border. Although rare to see them look in the Modoc National Forest and Lassen National Forest during the winter.

Call And Drumming

11. Lewis’s Woodpecker

Scientific Name: Melanerpes lewis  Size: 10.2-11 inches

Description And Field Marks

Lewis’s woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker species native to western North America. They have a red crown and nape, yellowish-orange face and neck, and greyish-brown wings and back.


The nesting behavior of Lewis’s Woodpeckers involves finding a cavity in a tree to excavate for the nest usually lower than 60′ above ground. The male typically chooses the nesting site, and the birds may mate for life and use the same nest site repeatedly.

Lewis’s Woodpeckers lay between 2 and 5 eggs per clutch, which are white with brown and purple spots. They are oval-shaped and measure around 2 inches in length. The eggs typically hatch in 12-14 days. The eggs are incubated mainly by the female, with the male providing short-term relief. Both parents care for the nestlings, bringing back insects in their bills to feed them, and the young birds leave the nest after 4-5 weeks.


The diet of the Lewis’s Woodpeckers consists mostly of insects, but they also consume a wide variety of fruits and berries, as well as acorns and other nuts. They catch insects in the air while in flight, gleans insects from tree surfaces, take small fruits from trees, harvest acorns or other nuts, then breaks them into pieces and store them to feed on during the winter.

Additionally, it may feed at flat, open bird feeders and may act aggressively toward other birds.


Lewis’s Woodpeckers are mainly found in mountainous and forested areas during the breeding season. In California, they are primarily found in the central and eastern parts of the state, including the Sierra Nevada foothills and the Great Basin region. They are also known to occur in parts of the Great Basin region, including Mono and Inyo counties.

Call And Drumming

Additionally, its unique call is a good way to identify it.

12. downy woodpecker


Scientific Name: Dryobates pubescens  Size:  5.5-6.7 inches

Description And Field Marks

Downy Woodpeckers are bigger than the House Finch but smaller than Red-winged Blackbirds and are the smallest woodpecker in New Mexico. It has a black-and-white striped head and black wings with white spots and a solid white back and white underparts. The Downy Woodpecker has a black tail with white outer tail feathers with black bars or spots. The adult males have a small red patch on the back of their heads.


Look for their nest in dead trees or live trees with dead areas. They carve out an area large enough for the eggs and the bird. They line the nest only with wood chips. The nest can take weeks to make and is done by both the male and female.

A Downy woodpecker only has one brood each year with 3 to 8 eggs which are white in color. The incubation period is around 12 days with both the male and female taking turns. The young will stay in the nest for around 30 days.


Downy Woodpeckers eat insects and sap from the pine tree’s sap wells. The male tends to eat from the ground while the female likes to find insects from branches and in trees. They will also eat seeds, weeds, and fruit.

The Downy Woodpecker will visit your backyard suet feeders for suet and nuts.


The Downy woodpecker can be found year-round in the state of California. You will see them in residential areas, cities, farmland, and wooded areas.

Call And Drumming

13. pileated woodpeckers

Scientific Name: Dryocopus pileatus                                       Size: 16.5 inches

Description And Field Marks

The largest woodpeckers in California are the Pileated. It’s almost the size of a crow with an all-black body with white stripes down a long neck and a bright red crest on the back of their heads and strong bills. White under-wing and white wing patches are easily seen in flight.

Pileated Woodpeckers fly in fairly straight lines, unlike other woodpecker species, who fly in undulating lines.

Pileated Woodpeckers provide an important source of biodiversity to the state’s ecosystem and also act as indicators for healthy woodlands.

These are noisy, loud woodpeckers. Their drum is slow and powerful, accelerates, and then trails off, not more than two times a minute.


Pileated Woodpeckers drill out nest holes in large tree trunks. These nests can take from 3 to 6 weeks to build as they are very large, up to 2 feet wide.

Pileated Woodpeckers lay 3 to 5 white eggs each breeding season. The incubation period is 15 to 18 days and the young will remain in the nest for 24 to 31 days.


They really like carpenter ants, so they’re often found foraging at the bottoms of dead trees or on fallen logs.


Likes mature forests and open woodlands. Pileated Woodpeckers look for dead trees and logs, which offer food and a nest cavity. You can spot them in northern California all year long.

Bird Notes

Pileated Woodpecker holes are rectangular rather than round or oval like other woodpeckers, and they are deep enough to break smaller trees in half.

Call And Drumming

14. northern flicker

Northern Flicker

Scientific Name: Colaptes auratus  Size: 11.0-12.2 inches

Description And Field

The Northern Flicker male and female are similar in color. They both have a rounded head, the bill is curved down and the tail tapers to a long point.

With its gray-brown plumage, Northern Flickers stand out from other woodpeckers in their area. They also have plenty of dark markings on their undersides and brightly colored tail feathers.

Although the same bird their colors differ from the eastern United States (bright yellow wing and tail feathers) and the western US (red wing and tail feathers).

The Northern Flicker is “the woodpecker that doesn’t peck wood.” Instead, it cleans insects from the bark of trees.


It nests in holes excavated by other animals, such as squirrels and woodpeckers. It lays 5 to 8 eggs which are all white. They only have one brood per nesting season.

The incubation period is around 2 weeks and the young stay in the nest for about a month.


Northern Flickers mostly will eat insects that they get from the ground. They will “drum” at the ground as other woodpeckers drum in trees and wood. During the winter months, they will also eat fruits and seeds.

The Northern Flicker is a great backyard bird because it is generally easy to attract and stops in at your suet and peanut feeders, but most likely you’ll see them nesting in old trees.


You will see Northern Flickers in city parks and backyards in the suburbs. They will also be in woodlands with open trees, burned forests, swamps, and marshes.

The Northern Flicker is a common woodpecker in California all year-round but their numbers increase in the winter from birds migrating from Canada.

Call And Drumming

The Northern Flicker has a wide range of calls. It has a typical woodpecker-like “drum” and a more musical, gurgling call that is often mistaken for the song of the Red-winged Blackbird.

They make excellent watch birds due to their loud “wicka-wicka-wicka” call that can be heard from quite a distance.

15. hairy woodpecker

Scientific Name: Leuconotopicus villosus  Size: 7.1-10.2 inches

Description And Field Marks

Very similar to the Downy Woodpecker in color and looks except the Hairy Woodpecker is larger in size and has a longer bill.


Hairy Woodpeckers make their nest in trees, especially diet trees. They lay 3-6 all-white eggs with an incubation period of 10 to 12 days. The young woodpeckers remain in the nest for about a month.


Their main source of food is insects that they find in trees and branches.


Hairy Woodpeckers are year-round residents of California. You can see them all over but especially in the western part of the state. If you don’t see them you will definitely hear them drumming on trees.

Call And Drumming


What Time Of Year Are Woodpeckers Most Active?

Woodpeckers are most active during the morning and evening hours.

Do Woodpeckers Only Live In Forests?

Woodpeckers can be found living throughout North America, and they are generally year-round residents. They prefer to live in areas with lots of trees, as they use these trees for food, nesting sites, and roosting sites.

How To Attract Woodpeckers To Your Backyard

The best way to attract woodpeckers to your backyard is to provide them with a natural habitat that includes plenty of trees, shrubs, and other vegetation. You can also provide birdhouses or nesting boxes for them to use.

How Can You Identify Each Type Of Woodpecker?

Step 1: Look At The Overall Size Of The Woodpecker.

The Pileated Woodpecker is the biggest and is mostly black with white stripes on its face and neck. To identify this woodpecker, look for a large triangle of the red crest on the top of its head.

Downy Woodpeckers and Hairy Woodpeckers can be easily identified by their bill size in relation to their head size. Downy Woodpeckers have a small bill while Hairy Woodpeckers have a bill that is almost the same size as their head.

Step 2: Look At The Coloration Of The Woodpecker.

There are a few ways to identify woodpeckers by their appearance. One way is to look at the coloration of the woodpecker. Male woodpeckers usually have a red patch on the back of their heads, while females do not.

Step 3: Look At The Habitat Of The Woodpecker.

The habitat can help identify the type of woodpecker. Woodpeckers are typically found in forests, so if you see a woodpecker in a forest, it is most likely a Hairy Woodpecker. If you see a woodpecker in an open field, it is most likely a Downy Woodpecker.

What Is The Average Lifespan Of A Woodpecker?

Woodpeckers are small birds with a lifespan of 6 to 10 years.

What Do Woodpeckers Eat?

Woodpeckers are a type of bird that is known for its ability to peck at trees. Woodpeckers mainly feed on wood-boring insects, larvae, grubs, eggs, and pupae. They use their sharp and heavy bill to chisel and dig into trees to reach the food.

Suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts are the best foods for attracting woodpeckers. They also consume a mix of berries, grains, and acorns.


Now that you know more about the different types of woodpeckers in California, keep an eye and especially an ear out to see these birds.

For more information on woodpeckers in California as well as other birds check out the California Audubon Society.

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