occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: RESIDENT: northern California south, west of deserts and Sierra Nevada, to northwestern Baja California; accidental or casual in southern Oregon (may breed), southeastern California (Salton Sea) and Arizona (Phoenix) (AOU 1983).
Length: 19 cm
Weight: 38 grams
Catalog Number: USNM A3337
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Birds
Sex/Stage: Male; Subadult
Preparation: Skin: Whole
Collector(s): W. Gambel
Year Collected: 1841
Locality: Los Angeles, Near Pueblo De Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States, North America
California Central Valley Grasslands Habitat
This taxon is found in the California Central Valley grasslands, which extend approximately 430 miles in central California, paralleling the Sierra Nevada Range to the east and the coastal ranges to the west (averaging 75 miles in longitudinal extent), and stopping abruptly at the Tehachapi Range in the south. Two rivers flow from opposite ends and join around the middle of the valley to form the extensive Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that flows into San Francisco Bay.
Perennial grasses that were adapted to cool-season growth once dominated the ecoregion. The deep-rooted Purple Needle Grass (Nassella pulchra) was particularly important, although Nodding Needle Grass (Stipa cernua), Wild Ryes (Elymus spp.), Lassen County Bluegrass (Poa limosa), Aristida spp., Crested Hair-grass (Koeleria pyramidata), Deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens,), and Coast Range Melicgrass (Melica imperfecta) occurred in varying proportions. Most grass growth occurred in the late spring after winter rains and the onset of warmer and sunnier days. Interspersed among the bunchgrasses were a rich array of annual and perennial grasses and forbs, the latter creating extraordinary flowering displays during certain years. Some extensive mass flowerings of the California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Lupines (Lupinus spp.), and Exserted Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja exserta) are found in this grassland ecoregion.
Prehistoric grasslands here supported several herbivores including Pronghorn Antelope (Antilocapra americana), elk (including a valley subspecies, the Tule Elk, (Cervus elaphus nannodes), Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), California ground squirrels, gophers, mice, hare, rabbits, and kangaroo rats. Several rodents are endemics or near-endemics to southern valley habitats including the Fresno Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys nitratoides exilis), Tipton Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys nitratoides nitratoides), San Joaquin Pocket Mouse (Perognathus inornatus), and Giant Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys ingens). Predators originally included grizzly bear, gray wolf, coyote, mountain lion, ringtail, bobcat, and the San Joaquin Valley Kit Fox (Vulpes velox), a near-endemic.
The valley and associated delta once supported enormous populations of wintering waterfowl in extensive freshwater marshes. Riparian woodlands acted as important migratory pathways and breeding areas for many neotropical migratory birds. Three species of bird are largely endemic to the Central Valley, surrounding foothills, and portions of the southern coast ranges, namely, the Yellow-billed Magpie (Pica nuttalli), the Tri-colored Blackbird (Agelaius tricolor EN), and Nuttall’s Woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii).
The valley contains a number of reptile species including several endemic or near-endemic species or subspecies such as the San Joaquin Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum ruddocki), the Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard (Gambelia sila EN), Gilbert’s Skink (Plestiodon gilberti) and the Sierra Garter Snake (Thamnophis couchii). Lizards present in the ecoregion include: Coast Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma coronatum NT); Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis); Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata); and the Northern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria coerulea).
There are only a few amphibian species present in the California Central Valley grasslands ecoregion. Special status anuran taxa found here are: Foothill Yellow-legged Frog (Rana boylii NT); Pacific Chorus Frog (Pseudacris regilla); and Western Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates cultripes). The Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) occurs within this ecoregion.
Although many endemic plant species are recognized, especially those associated with vernal pools, e.g. Prickly Spiralgrass (Tuctoria mucronata). A number of invertebrates are known to be restricted to California Central Valley habitats. These include the Delta Green Ground Beetle (Elaphrus viridis CR) known only from a single vernal pool site, and the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus) found only in riparian woodlands of three California counties.
Vernal pool communities occur throughout the Central Valley in seasonally flooded depressions. Several types are recognized including valley pools in basin areas which are typically alkaline or saline, terrace pools on ancient flood terraces of higher ground, and pools on volcanic soils. Vernal pool vegetation is ancient and unique with many habitat and local endemic species. During wet springs, the rims of the pools are encircled by flowers that change in composition as the water recedes. Several aquatic invertebrates are restricted to these unique habitats including a species of fairy shrimp and tadpole shrimp.
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: Oak forest and woodland, chaparral and riparian (especially willow-cottonwood) woodland (AOU 1983). In the Sierra Nevada foothills, extensively uses QUERCUS WISLIZENII and PINUS SABINIANA outside the breeding season; extensively uses QUERCUS DOUGLASII during the breeding season (Block 1991). Both sexes dig out a cavity in a tree, 1-18 m above ground.
Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Comments: Typically probes in crevices and under bark for insects (eggs, larvae, and adults). Forages by lightly pecking, probing, and gleaning prey from branches less than 30 cm in diameter (Block 1991). Also eats cottonwood buds and some berries. Sometimes drills for insects.
Life History and Behavior
Breeding begins in late March (Harrison 1978). Both sexes incubate 4-5, sometimes 3-6, eggs for about 14 days. Young are tended by both adults.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Picoides nuttallii
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Picoides nuttallii
Public Records: 11
Specimens with Barcodes: 13
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Nuttall's woodpecker (Dryobates nuttallii) is a species of woodpecker named after naturalist Thomas Nuttall in 1843. They are found in oak woodlands of California and are similar to the ladder-backed woodpecker in both genetics and appearance.[page needed]
Nuttall’s woodpecker has black wings and tail feathers with white barring. On the ventral surface, colour is white with black spots and barring. It has a black forehead with white streaks on the sides and an unbarred black region at the top of the back. Adult males have a distinguishable red crown which females do not. However, this physical feature is present in the juvenile of both sexes. They have zygodactyl feet and stiff tail feathers which allows them to maintain a vertical position on trees; typical of woodpeckers. The mass of the Nuttall’s woodpecker ranges from 30 to 45 g (1.1 to 1.6 oz), with a body length of 16 to 18 cm (6.3 to 7.1 in).
The Nuttall’s woodpecker is closely related to the ladder-backed woodpecker of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico.[page needed] The Nuttall's likely evolved via allopatric speciation when the two species were separated into smaller ranges by dry climate during the Pleistocene glaciation.[page needed] Hybrids of the two species exist but are rare.[page needed]
Habitat and distribution
Nuttall’s are a non-migratory species with a geographic range confined to northern California extending south towards the northwest region of Baja California, Mexico. Their preferred habitat is arid to mesic woodlands. In particular, these woodpeckers prefer oak woodlands, although they also occur in riparian sites and chaparral in the most southern parts of its range because of the decrease in oak abundance. Individuals are found from sea level to 1,250 m (4,100 ft), rarely to 2,000 m (6,600 ft).[page needed]
The birds are not considered globally threatened although the range is restricted to the California Endemic Bird Area.[page needed] They are fairly common in California with a total world population estimated at over 100,000 individuals (density of about 20 birds per square kilometer in San Bernardino County).[page needed] Surveys suggest no obvious population trends.[page needed]
Vocalizations performed by Nuttall’s woodpecker are considered to be not of any harmonic. Some vocalizations have been described:
- Call note – used between mated pairs to communicate their location to each other.
- Double call – same function as call note can but also be used as a low threat alarm call.
- Rattle call – used to establish territories when feeding
- Kweek call – used between sexes mainly by female prior to copulation.
Nuttall’s woodpecker feeds primarily on insect larvae such as those of wood borers, click beetles, and ants, found by tapping and probing into the crevices in oak trees. The bird also feeds on sap from sap holes created by red-breasted sapsuckers in birch and willow, and consumes a variety of berry seeds.
Pair bonding occurs in late January to March with egg-laying mostly in April and May. Nuttall’s woodpeckers are socially monogamous and show displays of bi-parental care. New nests are excavated each year by males in the cavities of dead trees such as willow, oak, and alder. Clutch sizes range from 3 to 6 eggs with the male partner incubating the eggs at night and the female during the day. Incubation period can be up to 14 days. Fledglings are able to leave the nest around 15 days post hatch with parental care continuing for 14 days after that.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Picoides nuttallii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Lowther, P.E. 2000. "Nuttall’s Woodpecker Picoides nuttallii". The Birds of North America, No. 555l.
- Miller, A.H., C. Bock. 1972. "Natural-history of Nuttall Woodpecker at Hastings Reservation". Condor, 74: 284-294.
- del Hoyo, Elliott and Sargatal. 1992. Handbook to birds of the world. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain
- Block, W.M. 1991. "Foraging ecology of Nuttall’s Woodpecker". Auk, 108: 303-317
- Jenkins, J.M. 1979. "Foraging behaviour of male and female Nuttall Woodpeckers Picoides nuttallii". Auk, 96: 418-420
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Constitutes a superspecies with P. scalaris (AOU 1998). Hybridizes sporadically with P. scalaris (AOU 1983).