Woodpecker Diversity in San Francisco

watchful acorn woodpecker (c) Janet Kessler

Watchful acorn woodpecker (c) Janet Kessler

Wildlife photographer Janet Kessler shared these photographs of an acorn woodpecker in Glen Canyon in late August, 2014 (and they’re copyright to her). It was a great capture, though she wasn’t thrilled with the quality. “They were taken under bad lighting at a high ISO,” she explained.

2014-08-27 (1) acorn woodpecker

Acorn woodpecker (c) Janet Kessler

We loved their expressiveness.  Acorn woodpeckers have clown faces with a comical red crown. They reminded us of a childhood song,  ” Hear him pickin’ out a melody/ Peck, peck, peckin’ at the same old tree/ he’s as happy as a bumblebee…”

It’s a delight to find so many species of woodpeckers in San Francisco.

The Audubon Society started its Christmas Bird Counts in 1915, and by 1945 they had held 18 counts. In those 18 counts, only three species of woodpecker showed up: Northern flickers; downy woodpeckers; and acorn woodpeckers like these birds here.

downy woodpecker (c) Janet Kessler

Downy woodpecker (c) Janet Kessler

Northern Flicker(c) Richard Drechsler 2012

Northern Flicker(c) Richard Drechsler 2012

MORE DIVERSITY

Woodpeckers need trees, preferably mature trees. All those tree-planting efforts from the turn of the last century have created a wonderful habitat for birds. 

Recent Christmas Bird Counts in San Francisco doubled the number of  woodpecker species. In addition to the earlier three,  they showed Hairy woodpeckers; Nuttall’s woodpeckers; and sapsuckers (both red-naped and yellow-bellied, a division that didn’t exist in 1945).

hairy woodpecker (c) janet kessler

Hairy woodpecker (c) Janet Kessler

Hairy woodpeckers, like the ones in the pictures here, are larger than downy woodpeckers and have bigger beaks.

Hairy Woodpecker (c) Richard Drechsler 2009

Hairy Woodpecker in San Francisco (c) Richard Drechsler 2009

This is a red-breasted sapsucker, photographed in San Francisco.

Sapsucker (c) Janet Kessler

Red breasted sapsucker (c) Janet Kessler

And recently, birders have reported seeing a Lewis’s woodpecker in Buena Vista Park, flying between cypress trees and “a tall eucalyptus.”

Lewis's Woodpecker (c) Richard Drechsler

Lewis’s Woodpecker in San Francisco (c) Richard Drechsler

NEXT GENERATION!

Northern flickers are breeding in the city now. (The photograph here and in the linked article are also by Janet Kessler and copyright to her.) The baby birds in the picture below are nearly grown.

Red-shafted flicker family in eucalyptus tree nest - San Francisco - Janet Kessler

Red-shafted flicker family in eucalyptus tree nest – San Francisco (c) Janet Kessler

Nuttall’s woodpeckers are breeding here too. We’d like to thank Richard Drechsler for these wonderful pictures of a Nuttall’s woodpecker nest, below.

Nuttall's woodpecker in nest (c) Richard Drechsler 2011

Nuttall’s woodpecker in nest (c) Richard Drechsler 2011

It was taken in the Potrero Hill area – where, incidentally, Caltrans is cutting down a lot of trees and neighbors are trying  to save them.

nuttall's woodpecker at nest (c) Richard Drechsler 2011

Nuttalls woodpecker at nest (c) Richard Drechsler 2011

We would like to thank Janet Kessler and Richard Drechsler for giving permission to use their photographs in this article.

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