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Lewis's Woodpecker Lewis's Woodpecker

Identification and Pictures

(Melanerpes lewis)Lewis's Woodpecker

Lewis's woodpecker named for Meriwether Lewis, is a large dark woodpecker about 10 inches, with a blackish-green back, and wings, a pink belly, and a gray collar.  The head is black with a red patch on the face.  They have a large pointed bill.  The sexes are similar.  Young birds have the dark back, and wings but have brown heads, no red on the faces, no gray collar, and they are mottled brown beneath.  The wings are broader than most woodpeckers and they have a straight flight with slow even strokes like a crow.

Similar birds are the Red-Headed and Acorn woodpeckers.

Photos by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D.

     Lewis's Woodpecker


The call of Lewis's woodpecker is a harsh chee-ur.  They also make high ik-ik-ik sound and a dry rattling.

Preferred Habitat

Lewis's woodpecker is found from British Columbia and southwestern Alberta through the western U.S. and into northern Mexico. They like logged forests, and river groves preferring large scattered trees to dense forests.  Northern populations may migrate for winter, while southern birds are resident year long.

Breeding and Nesting

Drumming during courtship is a weak roll followed by several taps.  To attract a mate, and to warn intruders the male points his bill, and does a raised wing display, flashing his pink under parts.  Lewis's Woodpeckers are monogamous, and pairs for long term bonds.  The nest is a cavity excavated in a dead tree branch, and will usually be reused each season.  They may reuse a cavity excavated by other birds.  The cavity is lined with wood chips, and the female will lay 6 to 8 white eggs.  Both birds will incubate them for around 12 days.  Both parents feed the young birds which will leave the nest in 4 to 5 weeks.  The fledglings will remain around the nest, and be fed by the parents for roughly a week.


Their main diet is insects such as ants, bees, grasshoppers, and beetles, but they also eat nuts, and berries.  In addition to foraging for insects on trees and, branches these birds will sit on top of a tree, or poll, and fly out to catch insects.  They also break up nuts, and acorns, and store them in holes, and cracks in trees, and polls for winter.  They defend these winter stores aggressively.  They will also visit suet feeders.

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