Lewis's Woodpecker

Melanerpes lewis

A dark woodpecker of open woodlands, the Lewis's Woodpecker is found westward of the Great Plains. Its slow, deliberate flight reminds one of a crow or jay more than a woodpecker.

Interesting Information

  • 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.

  • The Lewis's Woodpecker was named for Meriwether Lewis, one of the explorers who surveyed the areas bought by the USA in the Louisiana Purchase.

  • This species is poorly monitored in many parts of its range, but exhibits a significant long-term decline overall. Populations may have declined by as much as 50 % since 1966.

  • A group of woodpeckers has many collective nouns, including a "descent", "drumming", and "gatling" of woodpeckers.


Adult Description

  • Medium-sized woodpecker.

  • Head, back, wings, and tail greenish black.

  • Gray collar and chest.

  • Dark red face.

  • Belly pinkish or salmon red.

  • Wings and tail all dark, without white spots or patches.

Sex Differences

Sexes Similar


Juvenile similar to adult, but lacking red face and gray collar and chest.


Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Open pine-oak woodlands, oak, or cottonwood groves in grasslands, and ponderosa pine country


Captures insects by flycatching high above tree canopy or by gleaning off tree limbs. Huge numbers of acorns stored in holes in trees.


About one-third of its diet consists of acorns, which it stores in cracks and bark furrows; also eats insects such as ants, crickets, and grasshoppers, also berries, pine nuts, juniper berries, cherries, and apricots.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Picidae
    Subfamily: Picinae
Genus: Melanerpes
Species: Melanerpes lewis

Similar Species


Bird Sound

Call a series of "churs".

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution