by Alex Forsythe

I love this time of year! During the holidays, the house is filled with friends, relatives and wonderful delights! The entire home, inside and out, is dripping with festive decorations. The kitchen is constantly filled with the mouth-watering aroma of scrumptious food. The pantry is bursting at the seams. Food is stored in every nook and cranny.  If there‘s a flat surface, there’s food on it!


An Acorn Woodpecker would appreciate our desire to store so much food, but it would probably scoff at our inefficiency. They are experts when it comes to efficiently storing huge quantities of food to feed their large family groups throughout the winter.


Acorn Woodpeckers are quite social and their family groups are multi-generational. The young will often stay with their parents for several years after reaching adulthood. Unlike the stereotype of the adult human child lazily living in his parents’ basement while playing video games, the young adult Acorn Woodpeckers may stay with their parents for several years after reaching adulthood to help them raise their young and stash food for the winter.


The family group collects acorns and stores them in a community pantry. The same “granary tree” is often used year after year and is usually easy to spot: just look for the tree that has acorns peeking out of its bark along the trunk and branches. Each hole is drilled precisely to accommodate the circumference and depth of one acorn. The acorns are wedged in so tightly that squirrels and other animals have difficulty prying them out. If the acorn is not sufficiently snug, they will move it to a smaller storage hole. Additional storage holes are drilled each year; a granary tree used for many generations may contain up to 50,000 acorns!


During the summer, the Acorn Woodpecker prefers to eat insects. As with the acorns, the insects are often stuffed into cracks and crevices in trees for later consumption. In springtime, groups of Acorn Woodpeckers will gather around to share a drink from a small hole in a tree that is dripping sap.


You can find these birds in Oregon, California and the Southwest, particularly in oak woodlands. It is easy to distinguish males from females. The yellow and red patches on the forehead are adjacent in males; the patches are separated by a black band in females.


As you stuff your pantry this holiday season and attempt to fit more into the area than space permits, take a few minutes to learn from these food storage experts. Watch a video of a family group of Acorn Woodpeckers and their well-used granary tree here:


Happy holidays, everyone!


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