Monday, October 27, 2014

Bird of the Day: Acorn Woodpeckers at Chaw'se

Sitting for two hours at Chaw'se (Indian Grinding Rock State Park) in the Sierra Nevada near Jackson is to watch a soap opera. Dozens and dozens of birds were flitting about in the trees, but the main cast of the day were the Acorn Woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus). They were raucous and very busy storing acorns in the trees and on wooden poles in the park.
I love watching these birds. We tend to improperly anthropomorphize animals, but how can you not think of clowns when you see their colorful faces?
The woodpeckers are a western species, with a range that extends from Central America all the way to southern Oregon. They prefer oak woodlands, which is not too much of a surprise, given that acorns are one of their main food sources. They'll also eat insects, but insects won't be around during the winter. So they store acorns.
No, this picture isn't upside down, the bird was.
They'll drill thousands of holes into any available wood surfaces, including trees, telephone poles, or buildings.They'll stuff acorns in the holes, and then jealously guard their food stores from squirrels and the like.
Their storehouse trees are called granaries, and may contain tens of thousands of holes. The picture below was just one post in the picnic structure at Chaw'se.
We had a delightful afternoon watching these colorful birds at work in the nearly deserted park. Next time I will catch them all in the sun and in focus. It drove me nuts (acorns?) craning my neck, waiting for them to sit still long enough for a perfect pose. It will happen sometime!

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