South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Lewis's Woodpecker

Melanerpes lewis

Length: 11 inches Wingspan: 20 inches Seasonality: All Seasons
ID Keys: Pink belly, dark greenish back, red face, gray collar

Lewis's Woodpecker - Melanerpes lewisLewis's Woodpeckers are unusual woodpeckers of the Black Hills of South Dakota.  In addition to their unique plumage, they often act more like flycatchers when foraging, as they fly out from perches to catch insects in mid-air.  They also have an unusual flight pattern for a woodpecker, looking more like crows in flight.  They were first discovered on the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804, and were named after Meriwether Lewis.

Habitat: Requires open areas for aerial foraging habits.  Often found in burned areas, clear-cut areas, and cottonwood groves and other riverside groves.

Diet: Feeds on many insects during the summer months.  Feeds on fruits, berries, and nuts in all seasons.

Behavior: Uses a variety of foraging techniques, depending upon season and local conditions.  Much of its foraging is done by flying out from a perch and catching flying insects in mid-air.  They will also glean insects from foliage and tree limbs, and feed on fruits, nuts, and berries in the canopy, in shrubs, or on the ground.

Nesting: June and July in South Dakota.  The nest of a Lewis's Woodpecker is a cavity in a tree.  The female lays between 5 and 8 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them.  Upon hatching, both the male and female fed the young, who leave the nest after about one month.

Breeding Map: Breeding Bird Survey map

Song: Usually silent, although they will make weak chattering or chirring notes.

Migration: Migrates erratically, with some populations being permanent residents, while others routinely move to lower elevations in the winter.  Winter conditions and/or food availability occasionally result in larger scale migrations. 

Similar Species: Generally distinctive

Feeders: Will attend feeders for suet, also for various fruits.

Conservation Status: Has disappeared from many of it's former breeding grounds in the western United States, and declines are probably still occurring today.  However, declines are not yet enough for serious concern about populations overall, and the IUCN currently lists the Lewis's Woodpecker as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Lewis's Woodpecker

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Lewis's Woodpecker"

3) eNature.com: Lewis's Woodpecker

Image Information: Colored Pencil Drawing by Terry Sohl

 

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Lewis's Woodpecker - Melanerpes lewis - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon permanent resident in and around the Black Hills.
 

Additional Lewis's Woodpecker Images

Lewis's Woodpecker - Drawing by Terry Sohl    

Lewis's Woodpecker