Acorn Woodpecker

Scientific Name: Melanerpes formicivorus

Diet: Acorn Woodpeckers eat insects, sap, fruit, seeds, oak catkins, and acorns. About 50% of an Acorn Woodpecker’s diet is acorns. They store the acorns in summer and fall, and during the winter those caches are critical to survival.

Habitat: These woodpeckers are most common in oak woodlands or oak-pine woodlands, especially where there are several kinds of oak. They are also common in suburbs and parks where oaks are present.

Range: The Acorn Woodpecker is a year-round resident through-out its range. It can be found in only a tiny portion of Washington in the southern mid-west, and its range continues down the U.S to Mexico. It lives through-out central Mexico.

Sound: Acorn Woodpecker calls include a rolling rattle, and a clear RAW! note repeated

Nesting: Acorn Woodpeckers are cavity nesters, and they nest in tree trunks, or in main branches. The whole flock helps with breeding. All the woodpeckers help excavate the nest hole, which is bare except for wood chips in the bottom. Only some of the woodpeckers in a flock breed, and the others help out. Each breeding female lays 2-8 eggs in the cavity, which are incubated for 11 days. At first only the breeding females incubate, and then later helpers incubate as well. The whole flock helps take care of the nestlings. Acorn Woodpeckers lay 1-2 broods in a season.

Behavior: Acorn Woodpeckers travel in flocks of about 16 birds, which usually includes breeding pairs, their grown nestlings, and other relatives. They all help defend acorn graneries. These graneries hold up to 50,000 acorns, and each acorn is stored in an individually drilled hole or a crevice in the tree. These caches help them survive through the winter. Acorn Woodpeckers catch insects by fly-catching.

Description/Field Marks: Acorn Woodpeckers are about 7-9 inches long and they have wingspans of about 14-17 inches. Acorn Woodpeckers have black backs and wings, and black breasts with black streaking going down their white undersides. Their faces look like clown faces. They have red crowns and white foreheads, cheeks, and throats. On males the red on the crown extends down to the forehead, and on females there is a black strip between the white forehead and the red crown. Their eyes are bright white, in contrast to the black feathers surrounding them. Their bills are black.


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