Red-headed Woodpecker Storing an Acorn

Since late October, we’ve continued to hear the loose, rattling calls of a juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker in trees around our back yard and our neighbor’s. It often sounds close, but I don’t often see it. This morning when I got back home after a walk, I heard the calls again – and this time I was lucky enough to see it just as it flew to a rather high spot on one fork of a tall pecan tree. In its bill was something that looked like a large acorn, and I watched as the woodpecker tucked the object into a crevice in the tree. It didn’t work at it long, just immediately tucked its bill toward and into the tree. It tapped at it two or three times, and then began to explore other spots nearby with its bill. 

Red-headed Woodpeckers are one of only four woodpecker species in North America that are known to store food like acorns and other nuts and seeds, or even insects like grasshoppers. They wedge them into crevices and cover them with wood or bark. So this was really interesting to see! My view wasn’t close enough to see if this one was covering what it had stored, but it did tap at it briefly.

The woodpecker – a juvenile with a full brown head and brownish-black back, and wings with large white panels – stayed in this one pecan tree for several minutes, calling its rattling call from time to time. Across the lower part of the white wing panels was a pattern that looked like dark, partly-scalloped lines. The woodpecker moved from the fork of the tree out onto a much-thinner branch, where it sat for a while and preened, addressing its back and wings and breast, each in turn. In only a minute or two its feathers looked fluffed up and downy all over. 

I kept watching until my neck was sore from leaning back – the woodpecker was pretty high up in the tree. But it was a lot of fun to see, and it’s not every year we have one stay around for a while. 

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