Photo: Robert A. 'Spike' Baker/Vireo

White-headed Woodpecker

Picoides albolarvatus

Boldly marked but quiet in its behavior, the White-headed Woodpecker is a specialty of mountain pine forests in the far west. At some times of year it feeds heavily on pine seeds, more so than any other North American woodpecker. Perhaps because of the high proportion of dry seeds in its diet, it is often seen coming down to the edge of water to drink.
Conservation status Still seems to be fairly common within its main range, but population trends would be difficult to measure.
Family Woodpeckers
Habitat Mountain pine forests. Seldom found away from pines, and favors those with large cones or prolific seed production, such as Coulter, ponderosa, Jeffrey, and sugar pines. Also forages in incense-cedars, sequoias, and other conifers, and ranges very uncommonly up to elevations dominated by firs.
Boldly marked but quiet in its behavior, the White-headed Woodpecker is a specialty of mountain pine forests in the far west. At some times of year it feeds heavily on pine seeds, more so than any other North American woodpecker. Perhaps because of the high proportion of dry seeds in its diet, it is often seen coming down to the edge of water to drink.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult male
  • juvenile
Feeding Behavior

Obtains pine seeds by prying open cones in trees. Also forages for insects on trunk and limbs, and among needle clusters in conifers. Typically pries off flakes of bark rather than knocking them off, so foraging tends to be quiet. Sometimes catches insects in flight. Males and females often have different foraging behaviors, but this varies with place and season.


Eggs

4-5, sometimes 3-7. White, often becoming stained by pine pitch on parents' plumage. Incubation is by both sexes, about 14 days. Young: Both parents feed young, and young leave the nest about 26 days after hatching.


Young

Both parents feed young, and young leave the nest about 26 days after hatching.

Diet

Mostly insects and pine seeds. At some seasons, eats mostly pine seeds. Diet also includes wood-boring beetles, ants, and other insects, as well as spiders.


Nesting

Both sexes tap at potential nest site, and other displays around nest are apparently important in pair formation. Nest site is in cavity in heavy dead stub of tree (especially pines, also aspens, oaks, and others), usually 6-15' above ground, sometimes 2-25', rarely up to 50'. New cavity each year, but often in same tree as used in previous years. Nest hole is excavated by both sexes.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Generally permanent resident, although a few may move to lower elevations for winter.

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Migration

Generally permanent resident, although a few may move to lower elevations for winter.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Usually silent. A sharp pee-dink and a more prolonged pee-dee-dee-dink.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Woodpeckers Tree-clinging Birds

White-headed Woodpecker

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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