White-headed Woodpecker

A PhotoBlog Series by Jim Gain

Beautiful Birds of the Sierra Nevada Blog Post #1


The White-headed Woodpecker (Picoides albolarvatus) is a striking bird species that inhabits the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. It is a medium-sized woodpecker, measuring between 8 and 10 inches long, with a distinctive black and white plumage. As its name suggests, the White-headed Woodpecker has a white head, which contrasts with its black back, wings, and tail.

Males and females are similar in appearance, although males have a red crescent on the top of their head and a slightly longer bill.

The White-headed Woodpecker is a bird of lower and upper montane coniferous forests, where it feeds on insects, acorns, and pine seeds. It is a specialized forager, using its strong bill to pry off bark and search for food in crevices. The species is also known for its habit of storing acorns and pine seeds in crevices, a behavior known as “caching”.

White-headed Woodpecker is one of the least-studied woodpeckers in North America. In contrast to other parts of its range where populations are dropping, the species is more prevalent in California. The Sierra Nevada is particularly important for White-headed Woodpeckers as it is more often encountered here than anywhere else.

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