Woodpeckers are plentiful in the San Fernando Valley — indeed all over Los Angeles County and the Southland. The most common Woodpecker seen in backyards is the Nuttall’s (NUWO). This lively little bird can be seen looking for bugs in all kinds of trees, making loud noises on telephone poles and crossing yards with its typical Woodpecker flight pattern of flap-flap-flap-coast-coast-flap-flap-flap-coast-coast. The giveaway for the NUWO is the white spotted striping across the back. The female lacks the red head, or perhaps shows a little red at the back of the neck.
Less likely to be seen in a backyard, but not impossible, are two very similar Woodpeckers, the Downy (DOWO) and the Hairy (HAWO). The giveaway here is the black back with a white patch — no striping. The Downy slightly smaller and has a shorter beak and there are a few other, subtler differences. If either is spotted in a backyard, it can be quite satisfying to say, “That was either a Downy or a Hairy.”
The Acorn Woodpecker (ACWO) is slightly more likely to be seen in the foothills, places with more wild flora than the typical neighborhood. Acorn Woodpeckers are social, unlike the NUWO, DOWO or HAWO. They are matriarchal with definite layers of status, store food communally and make a lot of crazy sounds to go with that crazy yellow eye.