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Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 17:20 EDT

Acorn Woodpecker

The Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) is a medium-sized woodpecker with a black head, back, wings and tail. They have a white forehead, throat, belly and rump and their eyes are white. Adult males have a red cap starting at their forehead; females have a black area between the forehead and the cap.

Their breeding habitat is comprised of forested areas with oaks in the coastal hills of California and in the southern United States south to Colombia. Mating pairs of these woodpeckers will excavate their nest in a large cavity of a dead tree or a dead part of a tree. A group of adults may also participate in nesting activities: field studies have shown that breeding groups range from monogamous pairs to breeding collectives of seven males and three females, plus up to 10 non-breeding helpers.

Acorn Woodpeckers are larder hoarders. Breeding groups gather acorns and then create a granary by drilling holes in a dead tree and stuffing the acorns into them. The acorns are visible, and the group defends the tree against potential cache robbers. The acorns represent a significant part of their diet but they also eat insects, picking them off tree bark or catching them in flight. In addition they will also eat fruit, seeds and sometimes tree sap.

This bird is a permanent resident throughout its range. They may relocate to another area though if acorns are not readily available.

Image Source: Bureau of Land Management, Oregon/Washington, Medford District

Acorn Woodpecker