Red-bellied Woodpeckers have a wide-ranging diet consisting of nuts, fruits, frogs, minnows, nestling birds, songbird eggs, invertebrates, sap and nectar. At this time of year, acorns are a preferred food. While woodpeckers are well known for their ability to use their bills to drill into trees in order to extract insects, their use of their bills to extract the meat of nuts is less well-known. Often they will pluck an acorn off an oak and fly with it in their bill to a tree or post where they press it into a crevice. They then crack the shell of the acorn by hammering it with their bill, after which they extract the nutmeat.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers cache food throughout the entire year, but engage in this behavior more often during the fall. They return to their cached food throughout the winter. When you see a Red-bellied Woodpecker carrying something in its bill this time of year, follow its flight. If the bird happens to land, see if it tries to put the item in the crack of a tree or into a crevice. The list of items stored by this woodpecker includes acorns, nuts, seeds, fruits, fruit pulp, kernels of corn, suet, peanut butter, whole peanuts, and even insects. (Photo: male Red-bellied Woodpecker with Red Oak acorn)
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