Friday, April 30, 2010

When a Telephone Pole Becomes a Self Storage Facility for a Woodpecker

Our new front gate

The first day we were here, Sandy spotted a neat looking woodpecker. A little while later we both spotted the same type of bird and Sandy looked it up in our National Geographic Field Guide to Birds of North America. It is an Acorn Woodpecker. More about him in a moment.

An Acorn Woodpecker rests on a tree near our motorhome.

Yesterday when we went for a walk we passed a telephone pole. Something about the texture of the pole was different, so I walked back a few steps to take a closer look. Every nook and cranny and crack in the pole was stuffed with acorns. Aha, I thought, clever squirrels. As we walked away we could see four Acorn Woodpeckers land near the top of the pole. I assumed the woodpeckers were taking advantage of the hard work of the squirrels. What’s the old saying: never assume anything?

When we got back to the coach I looked up Acorn Woodpeckers on Wikipedia and learned some fascinating facts. First, Acorn Woodpeckers love the California Sierras as much as they love acorns; hence their name. According to Wikipedia, in some parts of their range (e.g., California), the woodpeckers create granaries or "acorn trees" by drilling holes in dead trees, dead branches, telephone poles and wooden buildings. The woodpeckers then collect acorns and find a hole that is just the right size for the acorn. As acorns dry out, they are moved to smaller holes and granary maintenance requires a significant amount of the bird's time.

Looks like some nuts have been consumed

The acorns are visible, and the group defends the tree (or telephone pole) against potential cache robbers like Steller's Jays and Western Scrub Jays. Acorns are such an important resource to the California populations that Acorn Woodpeckers may nest in the fall to take advantage of the fall acorn crop, a rare behavior in birds.

Kind of cool to learn something so unusual while enjoying this beautiful park.

There are many flowering bushes here in Park of the Sierras

Stay tuned.


  1. The acorn woodpecker is one of the birds that I haven't seen yet. They are an interesting bird. Thanks for the virtual experience. :)

  2. Wow! How interesting. Thanks for the information regarding the acorn woodpecker. I have never seen one but hopefully one day......
    and now I will know something about them. Great pics also.

    Enjoy and take care,
    Mike & Gerri (happytrails)