Amazing Acorn Woodpeckers: Packing 50,000 Nuts Into a Single Tree

A few years ago, while visiting northern California, I saw a museum-style installation in the Point Reyes National Seashore visitors' center showing a taxidermied acorn woodpecker. The bird was on a fake tree trunk filled with holes, many  of which contained acorns. That a woodpecker could stuff the bark of a tree with so many nuts—each tucked in snugly, like a pimiento in an olive—seemed astounding. I hoped to see the real bird in action someday.

I'm still waiting, but I was thrilled recently when one of The Naturalist's Notebook's many Facebook followers, Brian Lippe, sent us this photo he had taken in Poway, California, of an acorn woodpecker:

Photo of acorn woodpecker taken by Brian Lippe in Poway, California.

These birds live in the Southwest and on the West Coast and, working together, can embed as many as 50,000 acorns in the bark of a single tree (often a dead or dying one). They stash the acorns as food for the winter.

Here's the photo I took of the taxidermied acorn woodpecker at the Point Reyes visitors' center. It's a remarkable sight, but wait until you see the photo that follows it.

Here's the photo I took of the taxidermied acorn woodpecker at the Point Reyes visitors' center. It's a remarkable sight, but wait until you see the next photo.

After we wrote a Facebook post about acorn woodpeckers, Mary Van Essen sent us this shot she took of an acorn woodpecker "granary tree," in Escondido, Calif. It's pretty astounding. One of our Facebook followers wrote in to say that it looked like a squirrel's dream candy bar.

After we put up our Facebook post about acorn woodpeckers, Mary Van Essen sent us this shot she took of an acorn woodpecker "granary tree," in Escondido, Calif. Isn't this amazing? One of our Facebook followers wrote in to say that it looked like a squirrel's dream candy bar.

After we put up our Facebook post about acorn woodpeckers, Mary Van Essen sent us this shot she took of an acorn woodpecker "granary tree," in Escondido, Calif. Isn't this amazing? One of our Facebook followers wrote in to say that it looked like a squirrel's dream candy bar.

Peter Heymans of Crockett, Calif., later shared with us his shot of another tree larded with acorns by these remarkable woodpeckers.

Have you ever seen an acorn woodpecker or a tree packed like this with acorns? Send us your photos and stories. As ever in nature, reality is more amazing than fiction! —Craig Neff and Pamelia Markwood