Cooperation and Conflict in the Communal World of the Acorn Woodpecker

Photo by Bruce Lyon

The Thursday, Jan. 20 program meeting for the Redbud Audubon Society will feature Dr. Walt Koenig, an expert on Acorn Woodpeckers and a scientist who has been studying these fascinating birds for years. The program will be on Zoom and starts at 7 p.m. To register, go to www.redbudaudubon.org and click on the Registration Link on the home page. The link to join will be sent to you on the day of the program.

Acorn Woodpeckers, best known for their unique habit of storing acorns by the thousands in special structures known as “granaries,” exhibit one of the most complex social systems of any bird. Family groups of this species, sometimes numbering a dozen or more birds, contain multiple breeders of both sexes, a rare phenomenon called “polygynandry,” along with young from prior years that serve as “helpers-at-the-nest.” Based on a study of this species at Hastings Reservation in Monterey County, Dr. Koenig will explain some of the strikingly cooperative and surprisingly competitive behaviors of this species that he and his colleagues have discovered during their 50+ years of field study.

After studying Acorn Woodpeckers for his Ph.D., Walt Koenig was a Research Zoologist at Hastings Reservation, a field station located in the upper Carmel Valley run by the Museum of Vertebrate Zoologist at UC Berkeley, from 1982 to 2008. He subsequently was a Senior Scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, from 2008 to 2016. He retired in 2016 and returned to upper Carmel Valley, where he currently studies acorn production by California oaks and continues to contribute to the Acorn Woodpecker study.

Please join us for this fascinating program and learn about the habits of this common yet amazing resident bird of Lake County.

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