Lewis’s Woodpecker

Melanerpes lewis

The Lewis’s Woodpecker behaves mostly in a very un-woodpecker-like manner. Often it gleans insect prey from the surfaces of trees, or by ‘fly-catching’ (catching insects in mid-air). The range of these birds is in the western USA and southwestern Canada. They prefer open woodland habitat.

This species was discovered by the famous Corps of Discovery Expedition when Meriwether Lewis brought back over 200 animal samples. In 1806, famed ornithological pioneer Alexander Wilson named this bird in his honor.

Folks who study taxonomy regard the Lewis’s Woodpecker as monotypic (i.e. there are no subspecies).

For me, 2014 was a good year for meeting Lewis’s Woodpeckers. After finding them near June Lake (California) in the eastern Sierra Nevada region in August, I returned to San Diego County soon thereafter. I was exploring the coastal mountains in the eastern county, when I discovered a group of these unusual birds. They were in a remote area on my way up-slope to some springs I’d recently learned about. Lewis’s Woodpeckers are a rarity in San Diego, and when I reported to the community, much interest was generated. It may have even been helpful for the Christmas Bird Count later that year. The following spring, while touring the intermountain western USA, I found them again in western Montana, but I have not seen them since.

Range Map for Lewis’s Woodpecker
Range Map

16 Photos

Click map markers to reveal further information