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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

BirdNote® Acorn Woodpecker

Air Date: Week of October 25, 2013

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The acorn woodpecker was most likely a model for the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker. ( © Garrett Lau)

True to their name, Acorn Woodpeckers collect hundreds of acorns over the course of a year and hide them away in holes in trees. Michael Stein reports for BirdNote.


CURWOOD: For many animals, this is the time of year to gather plenty of nuts and seeds to stuff into store cupboards ready for winter. For one particular bird of California and the American southwest, that means a diligent search for oak trees, as Michael Stein explains in today's BirdNote®.

An Acorn Woodpecker stashing an acorn. (© Tom Grey)


STEIN: He doesn’t sound exactly like Woody Woodpecker, but this Acorn Woodpecker was probably the model for the cartoon character.


STEIN: Listen to Woody’s muse, calling from a dead oak tree.

Male Acorn Woodpecker (© Tom Grey)


The story goes that Walter Lantz and his new bride, Grace, were on their honeymoon in a cabin in California. A racket on their roof drew them outside, where they spotted a woodpecker, pounding away at the shingles. And worse, the bird actually bored a hole in the roof, letting in the rain. Now, Lantz was ready to shoot the pesky critter, but his wife suggested that, instead, he vent his frustration in a creative fashion. And in this way, supposedly, Woody Woodpecker was born.


STEIN: An Acorn Woodpecker might use an old roof in a pinch, but it’s much more likely to excavate holes in oak trees, stuffing the holes with acorns.


STEIN: Dozens of acorns. Hundreds of acorns. The cartoon Woody was an imp, but the Acorn Woodpecker is an industrious bird.


STEIN: A family group will store thousands of acorns over the course of a year.
STEIN: I’m Michael Stein.

[MUSIC: Nine Yards Orchestra “Sleep Waltzing” from Our Backyard (GoodtoGo Music 2001)]

CURWOOD: To see some photos of the Acorn Woodpecker, hop down to our website LOE.org.



BirdNote ®


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