Friday Fauna Feature: Acorn Woodpecker

Written by Aleidys Lopez Romero

Acorn woodpecker

Photo by Frank Schulenberg/Flickr.

Description

Acorn woodpeckers have mostly black bodies with white faces and an iconic red cap on their heads. Both sexes range from 7-9 inches in length and 2-3 ounces in weight. Interestingly they live in family groups of around a dozen individuals in a relationship called cooperative breeding. The breeding females all lay their eggs in the same cavity nest. However this causes each breeding female to destroy any eggs present before she begins to lay her own. This may seem like a terrible way to ensure the success of the family’s offspring, but acorn woodpeckers’ thriving populations suggest otherwise. Nature always find a way.

Diet

True to their name, these woodpeckers often munch on acorns, among other nuts. While this doesn’t surprise, the birds’ harvest and storage methods might. Acorn woodpeckers collect acorns from oak trees and drill holes into granary trees where more than 50,000 nuts can be stored. These nuts are collected in fall and eaten in winter. Acorn woodpeckers also store insects and eat fruit, sap, and flower nectar.

Acorn woodpecker

Photo of acorn woodpecker using a utility pole as a granary by Ingrid Taylar.

Habitat

Acorn woodpeckers live year-round in oak and pine-oak woodlands of the Southwest, Mexico, and Central America. They’re most commonly found in mountainous areas but have large elevation ranges.

Threats

Conservation Status: Least Concerned

Acorn woodpeckers often store nuts in man-made structures, which can unfortunately lead to conflicts with humans. They’re also at risk from habitat loss. Acorn woodpeckers are highly dependent on acorns from oak trees — so any development that destroys oaks forces these birds out of the area.

From our Border Wildlife Study cameras: An acorn woodpecker perched on a branch.

Sources