White-headed Woodpecker


When Curator of Birds and Mammals Phil Unitt hikes in the mountains of San Diego County, sometimes he hears drumming sounds coming from stands of conifer trees. What is it? It may be the sound of a White-headed Woodpecker (Picoides albolarvatus) pecking on a tree.

These woodpeckers peck or “drum” into trees when they are looking for food or to communicate with other woodpeckers. Vulnerable to extended droughts, forest fires, and bark beetle infestations of pine trees, this uncommon woodpecker inhabits less than four square miles in San Diego County’s Hot Springs Mountain and even less in the county’s other ranges. It is more easily seen around Idyllwild in the San Jacinto Mountains.

To learn more about the White-headed Woodpecker, visit the San Diego County Bird Atlas and determine if you are in fact listening to a White-headed Woodpecker or another one of its drumming cousins. 

AUDIO CREDIT: Jason Reinier, Earprint Productions

PHOTO CREDIT: Anthony Mercieca