I find the behavior known as hoarding fascinating. Hoarding simply refers to an animal storing food for future use. Fall is a great time to watch hoarding. Over the years, I have enjoyed seeing blue jays, chipmunks, gray squirrels and red-bellied woodpeckers store caches of food in my yard. However, I have never been lucky enough to see a red-headed woodpecker hoard food. One of the main reasons I would like observe this behavior is that it hoards insects.
Like the other hoarders that hoard feed throughout my yard, red-headed woodpeckers store a wide variety of nuts and other seeds. They are, however, especially fond of beechnuts and acorns. The birds stash these bits of food away in traditional places such as under the bark of trees, cracks in railroad ties, wooden fence posts, and dead trees. However, on occasion, they will even slip food beneath the shingles on barns and houses. One of their favorite places to hide food in the cracks found on the flat surfaces of tree stumps. Interestingly, it is our only woodpecker that covers stored seeds with bits of bark or wood.
However, what I find most interesting is the fact that they will store both live and dead insects. They are especially fond caching grasshoppers and crickets. Often live insects are crammed into holes and cracks so tight that it is impossible for them to escape. I find that truly remarkable.
Perhaps this will be the year that I will witness the seemingly unbelievable hoarding habits of this intriguing bird.
In the meantime, if you have been lucky to witness red-headed woodpeckers hoarding food in your backyard, I would like to hear about it.