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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Lewis' Woodpecker -- Melanerpes lewis

RANGE: Breeds from southern British Columbia to southwestern South Dakota and northwestern Nebraska south to south-central California, central Arizona, southern New Mexico, and eastern Colorado. Winters from northern Oregon, southern Idaho, central Colorado, and south-central Nebraska south irregularly to northern Baja California, northern Mexico, southern New Mexico, and west Texas.

STATUS: Population has been declining; has been placed on the blue list.

HABITAT: Inhabits open country with scattered trees rather than dense forests; open or parklike ponderosa pine forests are probably the major breeding habitat. Is attracted to burned-over stands of Douglas-fir, mixed conifer, pinyon-juniper, riparian, and oak woodlands but is also found in fringes of pine and juniper tree stands and in deciduous forests, especially riparian cottonwoods. Prefers areas with a good understory of grasses and shrubs to support insect prey populations. Winters over a wide range of habitats, especially where oaks are present.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Dead trees or tall stumps for cavity nests.

NEST: Generally excavates its own nest cavity in dead trees or tall stumps, but will use natural cavities or old excavated nest sites. Nests about equally in coniferous and deciduous trees, but favors ponderosa pine, cottonwood, and sycamore.

FOOD: Primarily eats insects during spring and summer. Catches flying insects by hawking from perches in dead trees or stumps. Mostly eats fruits and berries during fall. Gathers and stores winter food, mostly acorns, in crevices of dead trees, power poles, or oak bark.

REFERENCES: Beal and McAtee 1912, Bock 1970, Johnsgard 1979, MacRoberts and MacRoberts 1976, Oberholser 1974a, Tate and Tate 1982.

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