My first acorn woodpecker sighting was down near Medford, OR in the Klamath ecoregion. I was hiking at Prescott Park and was treated to a mated pair of these birds stashing acorns into dead snags. They’re really pretty birds, actually, and bigger than the downy woodpeckers I’m used to.

Caching food is a really important strategy for a lot of birds and mammals. During winter and even into spring, a lot of food sources dry up entirely, so these animals need to be prepared to get through the lean times. Unfortunately, cache theft is a thing, as is the phenomenon of forgetting exactly where you left your pantry! Acorn woodpeckers are less likely to deal with the latter problem, but they certainly have to deal with the former. It’s not always an individual or a pair that’s on the lookout for thieves, though. Acorn woodpeckers may live in collectives of a dozen or more (usually related) birds, all of whom may help with both caching and protecting food stores. This behavior is highly unusual among woodpeckers, and has been the topic of several studies.

Species portrayed: Acorn woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus), Garry oak (Quercus garryana)