Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)


French: Pic glandivore German: Eichelspecht Spanish: Carpintero bellotero

Picus formicivorus


, 1827,

Temiscáltepec, Mexico


Although geographical variation clinal, and some races rather poorly defined, one study#R found significant geographical differences in most of the seven morphometric and five plumage-coloration characters analysed (as well as clinal patterns) and identified seven geographical units. Isolated form angustifrons, with distinctively shorter wings and darker (brown) eyes, sometimes proposed as a separate species, but further data required. Race lineatus perhaps doubtfully distinct from albeolus. Named form phasma (from Nuevo León, in NE Mexico) is a synonym of nominate; proposed race martirensis (N Baja California) considered indistinguishable from bairdi. Seven subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. f. bairdi Ridgway, 1881 – W USA (from NW Oregon) S to extreme NW Mexico (N Baja California).
  • M. f. formicivorus (Swainson, 1827) – Arizona, New Mexico and W Texas S to SE Mexico (W of Chiapas).
  • M. f. angustifrons S. F. Baird, 1870 – extreme S Baja California.
  • M. f. albeolus Todd, 1910 – SE Mexico (E Chiapas, probably also Tabasco and Campeche), and NE Guatemala#R.
  • M. f. lineatus (Dickey & van Rossem, 1927) – Chiapas E to Guatemala and N Nicaragua.
  • M. f. striatipectus Ridgway, 1874 – Nicaragua to W Panama.
  • M. f. flavigula (Malherbe, 1849) – Colombia (W & C Andes and W slope of E Andes).
  • Descriptive notes

    c. 23 cm; 65–90 g. Rather small, distinctively patterned woodpecker. Male has white forehead and lores, red crown to nape, black chin, pale yellowish cheeks and throat... read more


    Rather noisy, with nasal whinnying, laughing or rattling calls: most common is “whaaka-whaaka... read more


    Oak (Quercus) woodland, and mixed woodland of pine (Pinus) and oak; also Douglas... read more

    Food and feeding

    Acorns; also other vegetable matter, including other seeds (e.g. of pine), oak catkins, berries and other fruits, sap, nectar. Drinks sugar... read more


    In USA, Mar–Jul and less often also Aug–Nov in C California, mostly May-early Sept in New Mexico, from Jun in Arizona; Apr... read more


    Mostly resident; occasional wandering, sometimes on large scale, in response to food shortage.... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common in most of range; common to fairly common in Mexico and Central America; local in Colombia. Often the most abundant woodpecker... read more

    Recommended citation

    Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 17 January 2020).