NatureMapping Animal Facts

Lewis's Woodpecker

distribution map

Lewis's Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis)
Species Code: MELE

Description: Lewis's Woodpecker is medium-sized woodpecker with a dark red face, gray collar, and a dark iridescent green-black back. The belly is pinkish or salmon red. The wings and tail are all dark, without spots or patches. The cap, bill, and legs are black. The feet are gray. Males and female look alike.

woodpecker photo

Calls: The call is a series of "churs".
Listen to calls of this species »

Range / Habitat: Breeds from southeastern British Columbia southward to central California and New Mexico, eastward to western South Dakota.

This species is common in open forests and woody riparian corridors of eastern Washington in the Ponderosa Pine zone and below, especially in Garry Oak groves. In the Columbia Basin, most are found near the transition between Ponderosa Pine and sagebrush at the lower treeline.

In eastern Washington, this species is mostly restricted to the transition zone between the Ponderosa Pine forests and sagebrush zones, where it utilizes the large hardwood groves found along riparian corridors. Away from this transition zone, in the central Columbia Basin, Lewis' Woodpecker are scarce.

Click the range map to learn more about the distribution of Lewis's Woodpecker in Washington.

woodpecker photo

Spends winters from southern British Columbia and Oregon to Colorado and south to northern Mexico. Open pine-oak woodlands, oak, or cottonwood groves in grasslands, and ponderosa pine country are preferred habitats.

Diet: Flying insects make up the majority of the woodpecker's spring and summer diet. In fall and winter they feed mainly on acorns, other nuts, seeds, and fruits.

Nesting: Lewis's Woodpeckers are monogamous and may form long-term pair bonds. The mated pair excavates a hole in a decayed tree - typically a cottonwood or Ponderosa pine. The nest hole is lined with wood-chips. They often reuse nest sites.

The female lays 6 to 7 eggs. The male and female take turns incubating the eggs for 12 to 16 days. Both adults feed the young, which leave the nest after 28 to 34 days. The young are still dependent on the parents for several days after they leave the nest.

Behavior: The Lewis's Woodpecker seldom, if ever, excavates wood for boring insects. Instead, it gleans insects from the tree surface, or most commonly, flycatches. It spends long periods of time watching for flying insects from the top of a pole or dead tree, and then flies out to catch them in flight.

Lewis's Woodpeckers have a more steady, buoyant flight than most other woodpeckers, with slower wing-beats and longer glides. In flight they can often be mistaken for crows. (BirdWeb)

Did you know?

  • Lewis's Woodpecker was named for Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Lewis, was one of the explorers who surveyed the areas bought by the USA in the Louisiana Purchase.
  • This species is different than other woodpeckers in that it rarely excavates wood for boring insects. Instead, it gleans insects from the tree surface, or most commonly, catches insects in the air.
  • A group of woodpeckers has many collective nouns, including a "descent", "drumming", and "gatling" of woodpeckers.

woodpecker photo
Lewis's Woodpecker collecting insects
Note the pointed tail feathers.

More Information
Lewis's Woodpecker - Birdweb

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