Podcast

When It Comes to the Family Granary, an Acorn Woodpecker's Work Is Never Done

After filling thousands of holes with food in the fall, the white-eyed hoarders spend winter reorganizing their stockpile.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of The National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.

Transcript:

This is BirdNote.

A large, dark woodpecker clings to the side of a tree. Its face is almost clown-like, boldly patterned in black and cream, with a red crown. And it’s holding something in its bill. Eyeing the tree with care, the woodpecker wedges the object into a shallow hole. A closer look reveals thousands of these small pockets in the bark, most neatly set with acorns.

We’re watching an Acorn Woodpecker, a bird found in parts of the western U.S. And it chips out these little recesses to fit the acorns it’ll harvest throughout the fall.

A family of Acorn Woodpeckers may use this storage tree, or granary, for generations. Some of them hold as many as 50,000 acorns, which the woodpeckers rely on when insect prey and other foods are hard to come by. But if trees with thick bark are in short supply, utility poles, fence posts, or the sides of barns will serve the same purpose.

So does the Acorn Woodpecker just kick back and munch acorns all winter? Not a chance. Because in the weeks after a fresh acorn is lodged in a hole, it dries and shrinks. Meaning Acorn Woodpeckers spend much of the winter shuttling them from one hole to another, finding just the right fit.

Today's show brought to you by the Bobolink Foundation.

For BirdNote, I'm Mary McCann.

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Credits:

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by G. A. Keller and B. McGuire

BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie

Narrator: Mary McCann

Written by Bob Sundstrom

© 2016 Tune In to Nature.org October 2016 / September 2019

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