While exterminator Nick Castro was inspecting for mealworms at a home in Santa Rosa, he instead discovered a bird’s glorious stash of tens of thousands of acorns.
The little oak nuts had been stashed in the wall of the home by acorn woodpeckers, who are known for their prodigious acorn collecting. These birds usually store thousands of acorns in small holes they drill into dying tree stumps, which they protect with great determination.
In this case, the woodpeckers had begun stacking the acorns inside the chimney of the house after a previous owner wrapped the house in vinyl, which prevented the birds from storing them in the wood siding. The nuts kept falling into a wall cavity, so the birds kept filling the gap with more and more acorns.
In total, Castro filled a total of eight garbage bags with 700lbs of acorns. He shared the photos of his rare find to his Facebook page:
According to Angela Brierly, a PhD researcher at Old Dominion University who studies acorn woodpeckers, generations of woodpeckers can take up to 100 years to perforate large trees with 50,000 acorn cubby-holes. The birds form polyamorous families with up to seven males and four females, who are joined by other relatives that help them raise their young. These families defend their granaries in oak forests across coastal Oregon, California, and Mexico, sometimes staging spectacular battles.
Brierly, who studies the birds’ social dynamics, said that the acorn woodpeckers’ entire ecosystem, life history, and way of living revolves around acorns.
The story of the acorn woodpeckers and their love for acorns is not new. According to the National Park Service, the birds are found in oak woodlands across the western United States, Mexico, and Central America. They have unique social structures and live in large groups that are highly organized. These groups can consist of up to 15 individuals who work together to collect, store, and protect their acorn supplies.
These woodpeckers also have a distinctive way of storing acorns, with each bird responsible for storing acorns in a specific part of the tree. They have even been observed storing acorns in man-made objects such as telephone poles, fence posts, and even the sides of buildings.
The recent acorn discovery by Castro is a testament to the acorn woodpeckers’ love for acorns and their unique behaviors. While their love for acorns may sometimes cause problems for homeowners like Castro, it’s hard not to admire their determination and resourcefulness.