Lewis Woodpecker

Lewis woodpeckerI am Muhammad. I choose Melanerpes lewis,know as Lewis Woodpecker. It was first observed and explained by Meriwether Lewis, an explorer of Louisiana Purchase area, and was named after him. What interested me most about this bird is the change in it’s habitat. This bird which nests in snags arrived in this region when loggers were cutting trees in forests and forest fires were more frequent. This provided a plenty of habitat to this bird.

Now due to large deforestation, its habitat is threatened. Lewis Wood pecker is an endangered specie and requires our attention and study.

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animals – Animalia

Phylum: Vertebrates – Craniata

Class: Birds – Aves

Order: Woodpeckers – Piciformes

Family: Woodpeckers – Picidae

Species: Lewis’s Woodpecker – Melanerpes lewis

Other Names:

  • Pic de Lewis (French)
  • Carpintero de Lewis (Spanish)

Physical Features:LWP (2)

Lewis Woodpecker is approximately 10 to 11 inches in length and weight about 115 grams. They have relatively longer and broader wings (49–52 cm) and tails than other wood peckers. Wings and Tails are greenish dark with no spots or patches. They have dark red face, gray collar, and a dark iridescent green-black back. Their belly is pinkish or salmon red. The cap, bill, and legs are black and feet are gray. Males and Females are similar in appearance but males are relatively larger.

Young’s appearance:Young (2)

Young birds are distinct from adults.They usually don’t have the silver color of the neck, the pinkish belly and the red face. They have over all dark appearance with more brownish-black on the back.


Lewis woodpecker is observed to be quieter than other species of woodpecker. They commonly call during the only breeding season.  Male Lewis’s Woodpeckers makes a harsh “CHURR” call during breeding which is repeated 3 to 8 times.

lewis-woodpeckers-mating Call


Lewis Woodpecker prefers open canopy forests and requires large dead or decaying trees for nesting. Important features of breeding area include a moderate amount of brushy understory, groundcover including dead or downed woody material, and abundant insects. It inhabits both lowland riparian and montane forest habitats. At higher elevations, Lewis’s Woodpecker is found in ponderosa pine forests with large trees and an open canopy. They also nest in oak woodlands, orchards, pinyon-juniper woodlands, other open coniferous forests, and agricultural lands. This species also occurs in burned logged forest areas. It is generally considered a species of older burn forest than new ones and moves in several years after fire once dead trees begin to fall and brush develops usually five to thirty years after fire. As I said in my introduction that Lewis woodpecker come in Washington when logging was frequent and forest fires were common, which provided a plenty of snag habitat to this specie.

Range of Habitat:lewis_woodpecker_map_big

They occur from south eastern Alaska British Columbia east to northern Minnesota, upstate new york, northern new England and eastern Canada and south to California Sierra Nevada Mountains and the rock mountains in Wyoming. In eastern Washington, this species is mostly limited to the transition zone between the Ponderosa Pine forests and sagebrush zones, where it nests in the large hardwood groves along riparian corridors.Washington Habitat

Nesting:4079500764_aa4f6f9306_oLWP8 (2)

Lewis woodpecker nests in a natural cavities, abandoned by Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) or previously used cavity. Unlike other woodpeckers, Lewis woodpecker morphologically is not well suited to excavate cavities in hard wood. It has been observed  that it nests in close proximity to one another in a semi colonial manner. Their nest is usually 1 to 52 meters above ground. Nested snags have a minimum diameter of 30.5 cm at breast height. Sometimes they have been found to excavate a new cavity in a soft snag (standing dead tree), dead branch of a living tree, or rotting utility pole. The nest hole is lined with woodchips. Nest is mainly constructed by male.


Breeding age of Lewis Woodpeckers is usually 1 year. They return to their breeding sites in May. Formation of pair  commonly occurs near the nest sites. Lewis’s Woodpeckers are monogamous and may form long-term pair bonds. The female lays average 6 to 7 eggs. Incubation period is 12 to 16 days and both male and female take turns incubating the eggs. Both parents feed the young. Youngs leave the nest after 28 to 34 days of hatching remain dependent on the parents for several days.


LWP4 (2)Lewis Woodpecker’s diet vary seasonally. They are predominantly insectivorous during the breeding season. This specie feed on a adult emergent insects (e.g., ants, beetles, flies, grasshoppers, tent caterpillars, mayflies) by  hawking, fly-catching and gleaning them from the surface of tree branches and trunks. Unlike other woodpeckers, the Lewis’s Woodpecker does not bore wood for insects and spends more time fly-catchingand ground-brush foraging than probing for insects. They also drop from a perch to capture insects on the ground. Lewis Woodpeckers are excellent flycatchers and have extremely fine vision. They have been observed catching insects which were about 100 feet from where the bird was perched. Their diet also include various fruits, berries, and seeds in fall and winter. This specie seems to favors acorns and commercial nuts and fruit in fall and winter. They also eat huckleberry, twinberry, currant, mountain ash and chokecherries. They stockpile food in natural crevices such as tree bark and desiccation cracks in utility poles, tailoring food to fit crevices near the nest site for later feeding to the nestlings. In the USA, they forage heavily on oak nuts, corn, and other mast sources.597940008 lewis's woodpecker melanerpes lewis wild


The Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is found to be the predator of adult Lewis Woodpecker , although other large raptors are also potential predators. The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is reported to prey on recently fledged young. Occasionally nest cavities are found torn open, suggesting that Black Bears (Ursus americanus) prey on nestlings. Snakes, voles, and squirrels are reported to be the potential predators of eggs and nestlings.

Population trend and Threats:LWP3 (2)

The global population is estimated to be 130,000. Based on the data from BBS and Christmas Bird Count, the overall population of Lewis’s Woodpecker have declined as much as 60% from the 1960s to the early 1990s. The population of Lewis Woodpecker depends on density of snags in a forest. An area with an average density of only 0.5 snags per 0.4 ha (1.0 acre) will support only 50% of the maximum breeding population. Managed forests generally have fewer available nesting sites than natural forests, because snags and diseased and damaged trees are usually removed.

The primary threat to Lewis’s Woodpecker and the cause of decline in population is the loss or alteration of suitable nesting habitat. Ponderosapine forests with an open, park-like structure suitable to Lewis Woodpecker have significantly declined in the Western part of North America due to decades of fire suppression and intensive grazing. Suitable burned forest habitat is rare than ever in historical times due to fire suppression and salvage logging techniques which leave no large snags for nesting. Competition with European Starlings for nest cavities is also considered a cause for its decline. Collisions with cars may be a cause of mortality in some areas. Use of insecticides and pesticides in orchards and gardens may reduce insect populations, an important food resource during the breeding season affecting it’s population. A decline seen in Washington and throughout their range has enlisted it as an at-risk species by Partners in Flight, Audubon~Washington, and the Washington Gap Analysis project. It is also candidate for endangered species listing by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.LWP7 (2)

Economic Importance:

Lewis Woodpecker have some negative impacts on agriculture. It is known to destroy cherries and small fruit crops. Other than that it is very beneficial to farmers. It eats many insects and Grasshoppers are its favourite. They have been noted to eat perticularly grasshoppers until they were completely gone. In a study a set of these birds were observed for about 45 minutes catching insects. In that time they ate about 35 insects and never missed catching them. They don’t harm living tress like other birds since they live in dead trees.

8 thoughts on “Lewis Woodpecker

  1. Great blog. There was a lot of pictures which i like. I would add a “sightings” section add the end of your blog just in case you see one. Great job on the blog, I learned a lot!

  2. Wow!!!!!!!!! This is definitely the best blog that i have read so far. You included almost all the information that you should have. You have a couple of typo errors, such as in paragraph 1, on your last sentence, and also right below that you need to add an s to species. Lastly, I would add a “sightings” section because you are going to be wanting to keep track and up to date with all of your visits to LPWR. Besides that, keep up the great blog work!

  3. Very nice blog!! You have so much information and I learned alot. It’s put together well with its large headings and I love all the pictures.

  4. Amazing, I don’t think I have seen a blog yet that is so in depth, has great pictures and sound, and has very little errors. Keep up the great work.

  5. this is an amazing blog again ali. the pictures are very good quality and the sound link is also very good. this blog is very in depth, keep it up

  6. Madison and Osa,

    The migrate from its nortern habitat toward south in winters. It spends winter from Southern British Columbia and Oregon to Colorado and South to NewMaxico.

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