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.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • 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.

Immature Description

Juvenile similar to adult, but lacking red face and gray collar and chest.
Range Map
Taxonomic Hierarchy


© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Piciformes
Family: Picidae
     Subfamily: Picinae
Genus: Melanerpes
Species: Melanerpes lewis
Call a series of "churs".

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
  • Length Range: 25-29 cm (10-11.5 in)
  • Weight: 116 g (4.1 oz)
  • Size: Medium (9 - 16 in)
  • Color Primary: Green, Black, Sheen or Iridescence
  • Underparts: Pink-red
  • Upperparts: Black with glossy green sheen.
  • Back Pattern: Solid
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
  • Bill Shape: Dagger, All-purpose
  • Eye Color: Brown.
  • Head Pattern: Plain, Unique pattern
  • Crown Color: Black with glossy green sheen.
  • Forehead Color: Dark Red
  • Nape Color: Black with glossy green sheen.
  • Throat Color: Black with glossy green sheen and wide gray collar.
  • Cere color: No Data
  • Flight Pattern: Crowlike flight., Slow deliberate wing beats.
  • Wingspan Range: 51-53 cm (20-21 in)
  • Wing Shape: Rounded-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Squared Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid
  • Upper Tail: Black with glossy green sheen.
  • Under Tail: Black with glossy green sheen.
  • Leg Color: Black
  • Breeding Location: Forest edge, Grassland with scattered trees
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous, Solitary nester
  • Breeding Population: Uncommon to fairly common
  • Egg Color: White
  • Number of Eggs: 4 - 9
  • Incubation Days: 13 - 14
  • Egg Incubator: Both sexes
  • Nest Material: Wood chips or bark pieces in trunks of trees or poles.
  • Migration: Some migrate
  • Condition at Hatching: Naked and helpless.

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Pic de Lewis (French)
  • Carpintero de Lewis (Spanish)
  • None

Conservation Status

Populations declining. On Audubon WatchList


Sources used to Construct this Page:

Open pine-oak woodlands, oak, or cottonwood groves in grasslands, and ponderosa pine country
  • Tobalske, B. W. 1997. Lewis' Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis). In The Birds of North America, No. 284 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
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.
Captures insects by flycatching high above tree canopy or by gleaning off tree limbs. Huge numbers of acorns stored in holes in trees.

Adult Male

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Additional Photos & Video


All photos © 2008 Rick Swartzentrover - Free for non-profit use.

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