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What is an Acorn Woodpecker?

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  • Written By: Laura Evans
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2017
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The acorn woodpecker is a bird between 8 to 9 1/2 inches long (20 to 24 cm) that is known for hoarding acorns to eat at a later date. In fact, acorn woodpeckers are known to pack acorns so tightly into holes that squirrels are unable to remove the seeds. These woodpeckers usually store their acorns in many holes in one single tree. Acorn woodpeckers are found in Southern Oregon, California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Western Texas.

These woodpeckers have a distinctive appearance that is often described as being "clownish." Male acorn woodpeckers are predominantly black and white with red crowns meeting white "foreheads" and black feathers surrounding piercing white eyes. Females look quite similar, except females have black bands separating the white from the red feathers.

The acorn woodpecker prefers to live in oak woodlands, whether the trees are located in suburbs or less densely populated areas. These birds also like Douglas firs or pine trees. Acorn woodpeckers will also pound holes in fences and utility poles.

Acorns are not the only food that the acorn woodpecker consumes. In fact, acorn woodpeckers may store acorns so that the birds have something to eat when other food sources are not available. Foods in addition to acorns that the acorn woodpecker enjoys are almonds, sap, walnuts, ants, and flying insects.

Another feature of the acorn woodpecker is the bird's social arrangement. Acorn woodpeckers live in groups of up to seven breeding males and up to three breeding females, which work together to protect their acorn stashes. These stashes are referred to as "granaries."

Male acorn woodpeckers mate with any of the female birds in their group. Eggs, which both the males and females keep warm, incubate for 11 to 14 days before hatching. Young acorn woodpeckers remain with the family group for several years before leaving.

As a group, or a "bushel" as a group acorn woodpeckers is called, acorn woodpeckers are quite noisy. Some liken some of the sounds that the acorn woodpecker makes to those made by Woody the Woodpecker when pecking holes in the old cartoon shows produced by Walter Lanz (1899-1994). In fact, this cartoon character was based on the acorn woodpecker.

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