"I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven."
Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Nuts about acorn woodpeckers

Acorn woodpeckers create granaries in the palms on Catalina Island. Photo by J.J. Meyer

An acorn woodpecker pokes his head out of a large wooden pole.  Photo by J.J. Meyer
My husband and I had the opportunity to watch acorn woodpeckers in action while on a recent trip to Catalina Island.  These photogenic birds seemed to be everywhere.

Acorn woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers with straight, spike-like bills and stiff, wedge-shaped tails used for support as the birds cling to tree trunks.

These striking birds are mostly black above with a red cap, creamy white face, and black patch around the bill.  They have a distinctive facial pattern with glowing yellow eyes.  Some like to think of them as having a painted clown face.  In flight, they show three patches of white: one in each wing and one on the rump. Females have less red on the crown than males.

Acorn woodpeckers are gregarious birds that live in large groups, hoard acorns and breed cooperatively. Group members gather acorns by the hundreds and wedge them into holes they’ve made in a tree trunk or telephone pole. Acorn woodpeckers also spend considerable time catching insects on the wing. They make raucous, scratchy waka-waka calls.

Want to learn more about woodpeckers?  The Yosemite Conservancy is hosting "Day of the Woodpecker" on December 5.  There are 11 species of woodpeckers found in Yosemite — more than in any comparable area in the United States.  Spend a day with an expert naturalist watching these industrious birds and learning about their diverse habitats and behaviors.  For more information, go to Yosemite Conservancy.

Happy Birding!

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