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There are some species that cause me to smile when I see them. One of these certainly is the Acorn Woodpecker. These birds are so lively, so engaging, that their presence ought to lighten anyone’s mood.
Acorn Woodpeckers are gregarious birds, often traveling in small flocks. They vocalize constantly, uttering loud, piercing calls. Their brilliant red, white, and blue plumage provides brilliant flashes of color in the woodlands that they inhabit. In southern Arizona, Acorn Woodpeckers are residents of higher elevations, showing up where grasslands give way to pines and hardwoods. I photographed these individuals a few weeks ago at the summit of Mt. Lemmon, nearly 9,000 feet above sea level (about 2700 meters).
Acorn Woodpeckers live communally in small flocks. They often store acorns — a principal food, as their name implies — by drilling holes in a select tree and depositing the acorns in those holes. Sometimes a flock will store dozens of acorns that way and the individual members share the harvest.
These woodpeckers’ communal lives extend to their breeding behavior, which can be incredibly complex. Some monogamous pairs of woodpeckers will nest in close proximity to other pairs. But also, some Acorn Woodpeckers practice a form of group sex, with a small group of males and females breeding with each other. Adult birds sometimes assist other woodpeckers in caring for their young. And, sometimes, Acorn Woodpeckers will serve as helpful older sisters and brothers, assisting their parents in raising the next generation of offspring.
Images made with a Canon 5Div, 400mm f4 DO II lens+1.4x telextender, stabilized by monopod, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 800, f5.6 @ 1/400.