So now, you may have noticed we’ve never featured a Woodpecker before. Well, all that changes today.
You’ll no doubt be familiar with what a Woodpecker’s all about: they’re birds that peck wood. They spend their days slamming their faces into branches — what a life. But not all Woodpeckers peck wood for the same reason. Some are hunting insects under the bark, others create channels so they can drink tree sap, but my favourite Woodpecker, the Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) has a whole different thing going on.
First up this is what they look like.
Woodpeckers are generally pretty easy to identify, many have that distinctive red cap, pointy little beak and zygodactyl feet (that is, two toes pointing forward, two toes pointing backwards). Their closest relatives are the Toucans, bet you didn’t see that coming.
Now, as the name suggests, Acorn Woodpeckers are all about acorns, they’re nuts for them. Much like a squirrel, these Woodpeckers spend their time gathering acorns and stashing them in granaries, so they have food for the winter. But it’s how they store their nuts that makes them so excellent. Take a look at this tree.
Acorn Woodpeckers form into family groups, they select a tree to become their ‘granary tree’ and then they all bore holes into that tree so it can act as a place to store their nuts. Not unlike a wine cellar really.
They’re quite fastidious about nut storage as well. The hole has to be just the right size. Too small, the nut will fall out, too big and it’ll get stuck. As acorns dry out though, they shrink. So Acorn Woodpeckers end up spending a huge amount of time visiting every nut in their tree, checking it and moving it to a new hole if it’s shrunk too much. They’re a bit OCD about it.
I got to fly up, check the nut, move the nut, fly up, check the nut, move the nut, fly up, check the nut, move the nut, winter is coming, don’t want to starve, got to move the nut, family will die, move the nut, check the nut, fly up. Repeat.
It’s a peaceful life.