Lewis’s Woodpecker

by Larry Jordan on January 11, 2011

Lewis’s Woodpecker photos by Larry Jordan

The Lewis’s Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis) was named in 1831 after Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame.  During spring and summer these large woodpeckers can be found hawking insects from the tops of oak trees, making complex aerial maneuvers that are visible from afar.  In fall and winter they depend on acorns and fruits for the majority of their diet.

The photo above was taken at Hart Ranch last May in Siskiyou County as our group was traveling by car from one side of the ranch to the other when this bird flew right up along side the vehicle and attached itself to a Juniper.

Yesterday, as I was traveling around Chico looking for Burrowing Owls, the woodpecker in the photos below, was perched atop an oak tree in my friend Howard’s yard.

As you can see, they are beautiful birds.  They are most fun to watch while hawking insects form the tree tops but it’s a thrill just to be able to see them nearly year round here in northern California.

I tried for quite awhile to get some in-flight shots of these birds a couple of years ago.  This is the best one I got from March 2009.

I think I will get some better shots this spring and maybe even capture some video of their hawking maneuvers.  In the meantime, go check out Springman’s World Bird Wednesday.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Pam January 12, 2011 at 3:09 am

What a handsome bird! Excellent photos!


Gary Phillips January 12, 2011 at 6:03 am

Wow!! What a find and those last 2 photos are incredible. Boom & Gary of The Vermilon River, Canada.


OpposableChums January 12, 2011 at 8:00 am

Yikes! Not found in my neck of the woods. What a beaut!


springman January 12, 2011 at 8:55 am

A Lewis’s Woodpecker! Thats a new one on me. I hope your succesful with your video experiments it would be great to see more of this beautiful bird. I know my camera has some video capablity that’s waiting to be tapped into as well. ;-)WBW


Mary January 12, 2011 at 9:08 am

Wow…what a strange woodpecker! The color is just fabulous!


holdingmoments January 12, 2011 at 9:34 am

What a stunner!


Mick January 12, 2011 at 12:18 pm

That’s a beautiful bird and your photos are great as usual.


theconstantwalker January 12, 2011 at 1:30 pm

A new bird for me also. Beautiful. Many thanks for sharing.


Jean January 12, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Larry, Oh…how I want to visit California…just to see the Lewis Woodpecker. OK…I wish to see other western birds also. 🙂
Thanks for sharing this beauty along with the info!


Nicole January 12, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Those are awesome birds, Larry.
I never heard of this one, let alone see one.
wow,… !


Grant McCreary January 12, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Nice. I don’t have many woodpeckers left to see in NA, but this is one of them. And these pics demonstrate why it’s one I can’t wait to see.


phyllis oller January 13, 2011 at 5:34 am

I have never seen a woodpecker like this,he is a huge bird!I`d say you did get a great shot of him in flight,thanks for sharing,phylliso


YourBirdOasis.com January 13, 2011 at 5:39 am

Probably my favorite woodpecker species, great pics as always! The hawking/flycatching for insects behavior of this species is really interesting. Can anyone tell me what other woodpeckers do this?


Mike B. January 14, 2011 at 8:29 am

Beautiful bird! Looks like this would be a very rare visitor to my yard. I guess I’ll have to just enjoy your photos.


JM January 14, 2011 at 11:41 am

He was looking at you on top! 🙂 Gorgeous bird! The variety of woodpeckers I find when blogging it’s amazing.


Martha Z January 14, 2011 at 9:12 pm

I haven’t seen these beauties. Here in Lincoln the only woodpeckers I have seen are the acorn antd the flickers, lots of both.


gwendolen January 16, 2011 at 6:37 am

What a cool looking woodpecker. We’re travelling through northern California this summer. Hope we spot it.


NatureFootstep January 16, 2011 at 1:50 pm

I can only say WOW. What a bird. I don´t think I have even seen a photo of this woodpecker. So different from all the others I´ve seen. The first shot is soo good. 🙂


Pat January 20, 2011 at 9:54 pm

What an awesome-looking bird! Nice captures!


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