Bird #468 — Nuttall’s Woodpecker

picoides (from picus, woodpecker, and eidos, likeness) nuttallii (named for Thomas Nuttall, English botanist and zoologist)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve in Murrieta, California

This one was supposed to be easy. Nuttall’s Woodpeckers are common on the Reserve and they’re only going to be found where there are trees. So I went where there were trees and looked and listened. I saw dozens of Acorn Woodpeckers, and heard a Flicker, but that was it.

The sun was setting and my time to look was disappearing. I walked back and forth through the strip of trees along the Vista Grande Trail. If there was a Nuttall’s Woodpecker there, I would have seen it.

I finally gave up on the trail and walked to the picnic grove near the visitor center. I’d been there earlier and noticed a lot of large trees. I wandered about a bit and then decided to cheat. I pulled up the birding app on my cell phone and played the calls of a Nuttall’s Woodpecker.  Immediately, I heard a return call and saw a male fly to the top of a nearby tree. It had a black-and-white striped back with no white patch down the center. The top bar, on the nape of the neck, was thicker. The black markings on the face were thicker than the white markings. And it had a bright red patch on the back of the head.

My view was good but brief. I then had to look away and step off the trail to let a father and his young daughter pass by. He was teaching her the words to the “Hokey Pokey” (really!), and when I looked back, the woodpecker had disappeared. I couldn’t find it again.


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