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Ladder-backed woodpecker        Images © Mark A. Chappell

Ladder-backed woodpeckers are typically found in dry desert areas but also inhabit oak woodlands.  They are quite similar to the Nuttall's woodpecker (found mainly in California), but ladderbacks have more white on the face and broader white 'ladder' bars on the back, often have buffy- or gray-tinged breasts and bellies, and males have more red on the top of the head.  These males (red cap) and females were photographed at Big Morongo Reserve and near Palm Desert.   In this region of California, separating ladderbacks from Nuttall's is especially challenging because of hybridization, and these two bird both show some intergrade traits.   The 'faded' bird was in south Texas.

  • Canon 10D, 1D4, or 7D2; 500 mm f4 IS lens + 1.4X converter or 800 mm IS plus 1.4X converter, fill-in flash (2003, 2004, 2013, 2104, 2016)