Acorn Woodpecker Granary

Acorn woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus), which I introduced yesterday, eat insects, tree sap and fruits. They can often be seen catching insects high above the tree canopy or gleaning them off the limbs of trees. The species name for the acorn woodpecker, formicivorus, actually refers to the ants (“formic”) that they eat.

Ants, however, are not the primary food of acorn woodpeckers. Acorns (surprise!) comprise the main portion of their diet. Extended family groups live in oak woodlands and stash acorns in a dead tree, or even a telephone pole. The acorn woodpeckers drill holes in the tree and push acorns into these cavities. The fit is very tight and often even the woodpeckers cannot retrieve their hoard. Over the years these storage trees, called granary trees, can hold thousands of acorns. In the winter, when food supplies are short, the granary tree provides sustenance for the acorn woodpeckers who maintain the tree. Drilling holes in the tree, collecting and stashing acorns and defending the granary occupy a large portion of the family’s time and energy.

The group that I was watching along the Pacific Crest Trail (Shasta County CA) had a dead ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) amid California black oaks (Quercus kelloggii) as their granary tree. One photograph shows the cached acorns and in another a woodpecker is drilling a hole in the granary. This granary tree is about thirty feet high. An acorn woodpecker can be seen at the top of the tree in the third picture.

Tomorrow – the unusual social structure of an acorn woodpecker family group.

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10 Responses to Acorn Woodpecker Granary

  1. Pingback: Purple Martin | The Nature Niche

  2. M.O. says:

    I try to appreciate the little greenery we have! When I am on the bus, I try to sit on the side from which I can see the trees on the sidewalks. We don’t have acorn woodpeckers, but we do have crows, pigeons, and gulls that have quite a lot of character! Still, I do dream about living in a place like yours. : )

  3. Pingback: Osprey Repairing Nest | The Nature Niche

  4. Pingback: Acorn Woodpecker Social Structure | The Nature Niche

  5. M.O. says:

    I am Matt’s friend, and I have been subscribing to your blog for some time. I love your blog, and I look forward to reading it every day! Have you ever seen an acorn woodpecker carrying an acorn? An acorn seems kind of cumbersome to carry.

    • gingkochris says:

      Thank you! I am glad that you enjoy my blog. Yes, I have seen an acorn woodpecker flying with an acorn. I plan to spend some time near a granery tree in the fall in an attempt to photograph a woodpecker stashing an acorn. I will share any pictures I get. I feel I know you from reading your comments on Matt’s blog – Perhaps some day we can actually meet when I come to visit Matt.

      • M.O. says:

        I would love to a woodpecker flying with an acorn! I look forward to seeing more pictures of these strange and endearing beings in the fall! I have been following your comments on Matt’s blog as well. It would be wonderful to meet you someday! Thank you for providing a daily escape from city life!

      • gingkochris says:

        Funny how we all have our different perspectives. I love where I live. Yet when I come to San Francisco I am entranced by all the different (and unusual to me) plants in yards and gardens.

  6. usermattw says:

    So industrious! But I would worry that the acorns aren’t safe from other scavengers. Do you suppose that’s a problem?

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