Acorn Woodpeckers Create Granaries, One Acorn at a Time – A BirdNote Story

As a proud member of BirdNote’s board of directors, I wanted to share these amazing stories from BirdNote’s collection of essays called, “BirdNote: Chirps, Quirks, and Stories of 100 Birds from the Popular Public Radio Show”. 

Acorn Woodpecker 

A large, dark woodpecker clings to the side of a tree. Its face is almost clown-like, boldly patterned in black and cream, with a red crown. And it’s holding something in its bill. Eyeing the tree with care, the woodpecker wedges the object into a shallow hole. A closer look reveals thousands of these small pockets in the bark, most neatly filled with acorns. 

Granaries created by Acorn Woodpeckers

The bird is an Acorn Woodpecker, and it is found in parts of the western United States. It chips out these little recesses to fit the acorns it will harvest throughout the fall. A family of Acorn Woodpeckers may use this storage tree, or granary, for generations. Some of them hold as many as fifty-thousand acorns, which the woodpeckers rely on when insect prey and other foods are hard to come by. But if trees with thick bark are in short supply, utility poles, fence posts, or the sides of barns will serve the same purpose. 

Perching Acorn Woodpecker

So does the Acorn Woodpecker just kick back and munch acorns all winter? Not a chance. Because in the weeks after a fresh acorn is lodged in a hole, it dries and shrinks. Meaning Acorn Woodpeckers spend much of the winter shuttling them from one hole to another, finding the right fit.

Acorn Woodpecker in flight 

As an avid bird photographer, I have been lucky to be able to shoot pictures of these birds, all around the world. Some sites include Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize and Madera Canyon in Arizona.  Listen to BirdNote from your computer, phone, or tablet, and you’ll learn amazing facts about birds and what they need to thrive. Sign up for our free newsletter, and you’ll enjoy beautiful photos and inspiring stories every Friday.

Purchase BirdNote: Chirps, Quirks, and Stories of 100 Birds from the Popular Public Radio Show

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