As most of you already know, an immature Red-headed Woodpecker has been
present in Central Park's North End for the past several weeks.  I finally
caught up with this individual last Sunday, 15 December, when I assisted in
the CBC and was counting birds in the NW sector.

The bird was observed on the western edge of the North Meadow and was
frequenting lamppost #9707, just east of the West Drive, at the latitude of
97th Street.  Specifically it was plucking fresh acorns from the branch of
a nearby oak tree, and caching them in the upper hole of the lamppost!  It
did this repeatedly during my visit.  We all thought this behavior to be
highly amusing because it appeared to be having fun "playing the slot
machine", but we were also a bit concerned.

Others report it doing the same thing today, 22 December, at the same
lamppost.  Although caching food for later use in winter is common practice
among some mammals and birds, this woodpecker picked a storage spot where
retrieval appears to be impossible.

Per Stephen A. Shunk, author of The Peterson Guide to Woodpeckers of North
America (2016), the Red-headed Woodpecker "...follows an unusual storage
ritual, first stashing foods in [a] single tree or small area
(larder-hoarding), then redistributing pieces to scattered storage sites
throughout territory (scatter-hoarding)."

To my knowledge, this particular individual is not using any other location
yet to store its food, so it is presumably still in Phase 1.  Hopefully it
will attempt to start scatter-hoarding soon, so that it will realize the
error of its ways.

Thoughts, anyone?  All documentation of this individual's behavior would be
much appreciated, especially if it can submitted to eBird.  My observations
from last Sunday are documented here:

Karen Fung


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