Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker
Male in California, USA
Female in Arizona, USA
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Piciformes
Family: Picidae
Genus: Melanerpes
Species: M. formicivorus
Binomial name
Melanerpes formicivorus
(Swainson, 1827)

The Acorn woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) is a medium-sized woodpecker, 21 cm long with an average weight of 85 g.



The adult Acorn Woodpecker has a brownish-black head, back, wings and tail, white forehead, throat, belly and rump. The eyes are white.There is a small part on the small of their backs were there are some green feathers. The adult male has a red cap starting at the forehead, whereas females have a black area between the forehead and the cap. The white neck, throat and forehead patches are distinctive identifiers.When flying,they take a few flaps of their wings and drop a foot or so.You can see white circles on the wings while flying. Acorn woodpeckers have a call that is almost like they are laughing.

Breeding communities

The breeding habitat is forested areas with oaks in the hills of coastal areas and foothills of California and the southwestern United States south to Colombia. This species may occur at low elevations in the north of its range, but rarely below 1000m in Central America, and it breeds up to the timberline. The breeding pair excavate a nest in a large cavity in a dead tree or a dead part of a tree. A group of adults may 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 nonbreeding helpers. Young have been found with multiple paternity.[1]

Male Acorn Woodpecker with "Granary Tree" full of acorns
Acorn hoarded by Acorn Woodpecker

they are green and have a pink toungh.

Food and homes

Acorn woodpeckers, as their name implies, depend heavily on acorns for food. In some parts of their range (e.g., California), the woodpeckers create granaries or "acorn trees" by drilling holes in dead trees, dead branches, telephone poles and wooden buildings. The woodpeckers then collect acorns and find a hole that is just the right size for the acorn. As acorns dry out, they are moved to smaller holes and granary maintenance requires a significant amount of the bird's time. They also feed on insects, sap, and fruit.

Defense and storing

The acorns are visible, and the group defends the tree against potential cache robbers like Steller's Jays and Western Scrub Jays. Acorns are such an important resource to the California populations that Acorn Woodpeckers may nest in the fall to take advantage of the fall acorn crop, a rare behavior in birds.[2] Acorn Woodpeckers can also be seen sallying from tree limbs to catch insects, eating fruit and seeds, and drilling holes to drink sap. The Acorn Woodpecker will use any human-made structures to store acorns, drilling holes into fence posts, utility poles, buildings, and even automobile radiators. Occasionally the woodpecker will put acorns into places where it cannot get them out. Woodpeckers put 220 kg (485 lb) of acorns into a wooden water tank in Arizona. In parts of its range the Acorn Woodpecker does not construct a granary tree, but instead stores acorns in natural holes and cracks in bark. If the stores are eaten, the woodpecker will move to another area, even going from Arizona to Mexico to spend the winter.

Breeding behavior

In California, Acorn Woodpeckers breed from May – July. An Acorn Woodpecker group may consist of 1-7 male breeders that compete to mate with 1-3 females. The nest is excavated in a large tree, which may also be a granary tree. Tree cavities are created in both dead and living trees and snags and nest holes are reused for many years. Females typically lay 5 eggs that are incubated for 11–14 days. Male and females incubate and tend to their young. Non-breeding helpers (young from previous years) often help with incubation and other parental duties. The young leave the nest and take their first flight at approximately 30–32 days after hatching and return to the nest to be fed for several weeks.

Breeding female

In groups with more than one breeding female, the females put their eggs into a single nest cavity. A female usually destroys any eggs in the nest before she starts to lay, and more than one third of all eggs laid in joint nests are destroyed. Once all the females start to lay, they stop removing eggs.

This bird is a permanent resident throughout its range. They may relocate to another area if acorns are not readily available. It is sedentary and very sociable.

Threats and degradation

Female bathing in California, USA

Acorn Woodpeckers like many other species are threatened by habitat loss and degradation. Competition for nest cavities by non-native species is an ongoing threat in urbanized areas. Conservation of this species is dependent on the maintenance of functional ecosystems that provide the full range of resources upon which the species depends. These include mature forests with oaks capable of producing large mast crops and places for the woodpeckers to nest, roost, and store mast. Residents are encouraged to preserve mature oak and pine-oak stands of trees and to provide dead limbs and snags for nesting, roosting and granary sites to help preserve the Acorn Woodpeckers population.

Popular culture

Walter Lantz is believed to have patterned the call of his cartoon character Woody Woodpecker on that of the acorn woodpecker, while patterning his appearance on that of the Pileated Woodpecker which has a prominent crest.[3]


  1. ^ Joste, N., Ligon, D., and Stacey, P. (1985) Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology; Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 17(1):39-41
  2. ^ Koenig, W.D., and Stahl, J.T. (2007) Condor; 109(2):334-350
  3. ^ "Woody The Acorn (Not Pileated) Woodpecker". NPR. Retrieved 2011-09-14. 


  • BirdLife International (2004). Melanerpes formicivorus. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 10 May 2006.
  • Haydock J., Koenig W. D., & Stanback, M. T. (2001). Shared parentage and incest avoidance in the cooperatively breeding acorn woodpecker. Molecular Ecology, 10, 1515-1525.
  • Stiles, F Gary; Skutch, Alexander Frank (1989), A guide to the birds of Costa Rica, Ithaca, New York: Comstock, ISBN 0-8014-2287-6 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • acorn woodpecker — gilinis tamsianugaris genys statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Melanerpes formicivorus angl. acorn woodpecker vok. Eichelspecht, m rus. муравьиный дятел, m; муравьиный меланерпес, m pranc. pic glandivore, m ryšiai: platesnis …   Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

  • acorn woodpecker — noun Date: 1981 a woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) found from the United States Pacific coast south to Colombia that stores acorns in small holes which it digs especially in the bark of trees …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • acorn woodpecker — noun A species of woodpecker native to the area between southwestern United States and Colombia …   Wiktionary

  • acorn woodpecker — noun : california woodpecker …   Useful english dictionary

  • woodpecker — /wood pek euhr/, n. any of numerous climbing birds of the family Picidae, having a hard, chisellike bill that it hammers repeatedly into wood in search of insects, stiff tail feathers to assist in climbing, and usually more or less boldly… …   Universalium

  • Acorn — The acorn is the nut of the oak tree (genera Quercus , Lithocarpus and Cyclobalanopsis , in the family Fagaceae). It is a nut, containing a single seed (rarely two seeds), enclosed in a tough, leathery shell, and borne in a cup shaped cupule.… …   Wikipedia

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  • Lewis's Woodpecker — Conservation status Least Concern ( …   Wikipedia

  • Woody Woodpecker — WBToonChar name = Woody Woodpecker image caption = Woody Woodpecker, from the opening title sequence for the 1950 short Puny Express first appearance = Knock Knock (1940) created by = Ben Hardaway Walter Lantz voiced by = Mel Blanc Ben Hardaway… …   Wikipedia

  • Melanerpes formicivorus — Eichelspecht Eichelspecht ♂ (Melanerpes formicivorus) Systematik Ordnung: Spechtvögel (Piciformes) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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