White-headed Woodpecker Dryobates albolarvatus

Jeffrey M. Kozma, Teresa J. Lorenz, Martin G. Raphael, Kimball L. Garrett, and Rita D. Dixon
Version: 2.0 — Published July 9, 2020


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Generally resident. Populations in most of range are considerably more fragmented than mapped because of complex topography and localized suitable coniferous forest habitat. Northernmost breeding occurs in the Okanagan Valley of south-central British Columbia (where rare) (33). Locally distributed south through eastern Washington (34, 35), western Idaho (west of 115°W; 36, 37, 38), through northeastern, central, and south-central Oregon (Blue, Ochoco, Wallowa, and Cascade mountains; 39, 40, 41), and in California south in the Coast Ranges very locally to northwestern Colusa County (42), and inland through the Sierra Nevada (widespread on western slope, more local on eastern slope) (43). Also breeds eastward into extreme western Nevada in Lake Tahoe region (44). In Cascades region of Washington and Oregon, found primarily on eastern slopes, occurring very locally on western slopes to Crater Lake and Siskiyou Mountains, Oregon (40, 41). Southern California distribution generally congruent with highest mountain ranges (45). Breeds in Mt. Pinos region and west to mountains of east-central Santa Barbara County (Big Pine Mountain, San Rafael Mountain, possibly Figueroa Mountain; 46, 47), and eastern Ventura County (Pine Mountain; 46). Also in Transverse Ranges (San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains), in San Jacinto Mountains, and locally south in Santa Rosa Mountains and high mountains of San Diego County (Mt. Palomar, Cuyamaca Mountains, Laguna Mountains; 48). As yet unrecorded in Baja California, being absent from coniferous forest in Sierra Juarez and San Pedro Martir, only 100–200 km south of southern terminus of known range.

Altitudes of resident range vary by latitude. Mainly below 700 m in British Columbia (33); in Washington and Oregon mainly 560–1,600 m on east slope of Cascades (49, RDD). In the Sierra Nevada, California, occurs mainly 1,000–2,450 m on west slope and 2,100–2,750 m on east slope; recorded exceptionally to 3,200 m (50). In mountains of southern California, gravirostris occurs mainly at 1,500–2,300 m.

Extralimital Records

Once in British Columbia (January) east to Creston Valley (51). Rare wanderer west of Cascade Mountains in Thurston County, Washington (52), and Lincoln County and Clatsop County, Oregon (40). East of normal range there are at least 7 records in Montana, all but 1 record occurring in fall and winter, and only 1 record was east of the continental divide (53); in northwestern Wyoming there is a 27 October 1924 sight record for Jackson Hole (54) and a 25 June 1990 sight record for Yellowstone National Park (T. L. McEneaney, personal communication). In California, has been reported rarely on floor of Central Valley, and on immediate coast in Mendocino County (55), and in Marin County some 150 km from nearest breeding areas (56). In southern California, has been recorded in lowlands of Mohave Desert in Kern County (e.g., 57, 58, 59, 60), at Furnace Creek Ranch, Inyo County (45), and at Palm Springs in the Colorado Desert (61). In southern California, rarely wanders to coastal regions from Santa Barbara County south to San Diego County (45). Only slight indications of irruptive nature of migrations. In winter 1987–1988, 19 individuals were recorded well out of normal habitat in coastal Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, and Orange counties of California, where 1–2, if any, occur most years (59, 47, KLG). Richards (62) cites invasion of "hundreds" into Nevada County, California, in winter 1901–1902; this report, in turn, cited by Voous (63) as indicative of periodic irruptions to lowlands by this species. White-headed Woodpecker, however, is widely resident in Nevada County, so basis for presumption of invasions is unknown and questionable.

Historical Changes to the Distribution

Northernmost populations in south-central British Columbia were not reported until 1890, with few reports prior to 1950 (64). This likely reflects increased coverage and distributional knowledge (65, 66) rather than an expansion of the species range.

White-headed Woodpecker distribution.
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
White-headed Woodpecker distribution.
White-headed Woodpecker, Abundance map
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Data provided by eBird

White-headed Woodpecker

Dryobates albolarvatus


This map depicts the seasonally-averaged estimated relative abundance, defined as the expected count on an eBird Traveling Count starting at the optimal time of day with the optimal search duration and distance that maximizes detection of that species in a region.  Learn more

Relative abundance

Recommended Citation

Kozma, J. M., T. J. Lorenz, M. G. Raphael, K. L. Garrett, and R. D. Dixon (2020). White-headed Woodpecker (Dryobates albolarvatus), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald and B. K. Keeney, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.whhwoo.02