Acorn Woodpeckers and Steller’s Jays

We see Acorn Woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus) only occasionally, so when two adults and a youngster showed up at the feeder the other morning we were delighted. These are showy birds, adding light yellow to the customary woodpecker color scheme of black/red/white. They came to the tube feeder with a spiral wire around the outside which is supposed to encourage woodpecker use, but our resident flickers (who nest inside the walls of the barn) rarely use it.

The third bird was smaller than the other two and took a while to figure out the feeder. He wanted to cling to the bark of the nearby tree and reach over to the seeds, but was finally doing it the easy way by using the wire.

I wish I could say I’d taken these photos, but without a long lens there was no point, and the birds were very wary of us even watching from the kitchen window. These are all from flickr, under Creative Commons licenses.

The picture below illustrates why they are called Acorn Woodpeckers. They drill holes to store the acorns. “As acorns dry out, they are moved to smaller holes and granary maintenance requires a significant amount of the bird’s time. The acorns are visible, and the group defends the tree 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.” [Wikipedia]. Their diet also includes insects caught in the air, fruit and seeds, and sap sipped from holes they drill.

Photo byKevin Cole, Creative Commons.


The facial patches may be white or light yellow; our visitors had showy yellow faces. Very handsome birds!


Photo above by Len Blumin, Creative Commons.

The Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) mentioned above as a stealer of acorns is another notable bird here in the Pacific Northwest, striking in appearance and a bit thuggish in behavior. They’re larger than the Acorn Woodpecker. Upper parts vary with latitude from nearly black to dark blue.


Photo above by Vincent, Creative Commons.

Some have light blue markings on the forehead and/or above the eyes.

Steller's JayMarkings.jpg

Photo above by dotpolka, Creative Commons.


Photo above by randomtruth, Creative Commons.

1 thought on “Acorn Woodpeckers and Steller’s Jays

  1. Say the awe of nature’s splendor and mix
    should be patterned somewhere else,
    Would your awe cease? That they is also us.
    An elocution of some star’s radiance.
    As particular toward to becoming bliss,
    Fine to be the cells in the radiant feather,
    Say holy now, holy to the end.

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