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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Acorn Woodpecker - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by digishooter
Wofford Heights, Kern Co., California, USA, December 2014
Melanerpes formicivorus


23 cm (8-9 in)
Male is black with a red crown, bright yellow throat, and white and black spotted chest and belly. The crown and throat feathers stand out and look beautiful in the sunlight.

Female lacks the yellow throat and has a smaller red patch on the back of the head.


Photo © by bobsofpa
Madera Canyon, Arizona, USA, May 2005

Western United States, Mexico, and northern Central America. Subspecies flavigula is a common bird in the Western Andes of Colombia.


Subspecies angustifrons
Photo © by Thomas P Brown
Serris De Lagoona, BCS Mexico, March 2016

This is a polytypic species[1] consisting of 7 subspecies:


Photo © by Stanley Jones
Davis Mountains State Park, Fort Davis
Jeff Davis County, Texas, 14 September 2021
  • M. f. bairdi:
  • M. f. angustifrons: dark brown eyes and shorter wings
  • M. f. formicivorus (aculeatus):
  • M. f. albeolus:
  • M. f. lineatus:
  • M. f. striatipectus:
  • M. f. flavigula:


Dry pine and oak woods. The Colombian subspecies lives in the subtropical zone, at 1650 meters above sea level.


Like all woodpeckers, these birds use their tails to steady themselves when clinging to a tree.


The bird's main diet consists of acorns, seeds (particularly of pine trees), fruits, catkins, berries, sap, nectar and insects.

They live in colonies and store acorns in holes drilled by generations of woodpeckers. Acorn Woodpeckers have the unique habit of pecking individual holes into both dead and live pine and oak trees and then placing acorns within the holes. The acorns, however, are only a reserve food source (i.e. for winter). (The Colombian subspecies has been observed to peck small holes in living trees and put nothing inside, a puzzling behavior given the year-round availability of food in its range.)


These birds are highly social and live in groups of twelve or more. In this group, only a few may mate, but all take responsibility for raising the babies and creating nests. The nest is built in a tree cavity. They lay 4-5 white eggs with an 11-12 day incubation period. Fledging occurs 30-32 days after hatching.


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  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Koenig, W. D., E. L. Walters, P. B. Stacey, M. T. Stanback, and R. L. Mumme (2020). Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald and B. K. Keeney, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.acowoo.01
  3. bird-friends.com
  4. BF Member observations

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